11 Years- April 23, 2016

Last month when my grandfather died my mom called to ask for a picture of me with Grandaddy at my wedding. “Well, I think the only one I have is in our wedding album,” I replied. “That’s fine,” she said. “We’ll set it out on the table at the visitation for people to view.” She carefully opened it to a large photo that made up the entire layout of one page. You can see us as bride and groom out of focus and my grandparents in the foreground. I love this photo and this page of our album. It’s beautiful to me.

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After the visitation the family was sitting around chatting through our grief and exhaustion after losing the family patriarch. We flipped through the pages of my beloved book. We giggled at the shot of my cousin with two champagne glasses and marveled at how brown my husband’s hair was the day we wed. My man is a bit more salt and peppered these days. For the first time I looked at the pages and couldn’t believe the young bride I saw. I shook my head and said, “I look so young!” I do look young. It was eleven years ago.

We always discussed what we would get from the house in a fire. The answer was always the same, “The kids, the dog and the wedding album.” My husband even said as we left for the funeral, “Are you sure we don’t have another photo? I hate to take the album. What if something happens?”

It’s like he was predicting the future. The night after the funeral we stumbled back to our hotel room. Our hearts were heavy and our bodies felt even heavier. With everyone off their schedules, we were a sleepy, surly group. I wrangled the children into bed in a strange place as he unloaded all our luggage from the car. After the kids were down he said, “Did you get the album out of the car?” I told him I left it because I couldn’t imagine anyone would take it. He found this answer to be unsatisfactory and grumpily stomped down to the hotel parking lot. I stifled my laughs when he angrily returned two minutes later to get the car keys. When he returned his anger went from peeved to furious. When I asked what was wrong he said, “I dropped the album and busted the corner!”

wedding album damage

My heart sank when I saw the bent and torn edge. We spent a great deal of time and money designing the layout of our album. These pictures were taken in 2005, before the “cloud” was a mysterious thing we all counted on to backup our memories. So they are archaically saved on CD-roms like it’s the dark ages. The album is tangible proof we got married. In a home with small children we don’t display many “nice things.” The album is the exception. It’s out with the instructions to not let anything happen to it. He explained that in his frustration of carrying a bunch of my junk that I had left in the car, it slipped from his hands and hit the pavement just right. He was mad at himself for losing his temper and hastily grabbing everything. He was mad at me and my automobile sloppiness. (Which is a continual point of contention in our marriage. But, I’m getting better!)

Here’s the thing. I’m not going to fix it. First, it would be expensive. Second, I’m just going to leave it.

That ding to our pristine book is kind of a metaphor for being married eleven years. Gone is the newlywed luster of our first decade of marriage. It’s wrinkled like the creases we have around our eyes now. On April 23, 2005 we were so shiny and new in our gown and tux. We had not yet weathered any of the changes and choices that make up a marriage. Money, graduate school, demanding careers, our parents’ divorces and separations, buying and selling houses, pregnancy, babies, children and family deaths. We’ve experienced more. So has our album.

I like our creases and dents. They have a story to tell, just like us.

11 years

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Preschool Politics- March 4, 2016

I think we as Americans are collectively realizing this is no longer a joke. This ridiculously brazen reality TV star billionaire is somehow inching closer to becoming the leader of the free world with each new idiot he recruits. When I say I know no one who is supporting Donald Trump I literally mean I know no one who backs him, or would admit to backing him. I scratched my head as I watched Super Tuesday returns showing Trump winning seven states while Facebook friends vented outrage and my Twitter feed filled with #nevertrump.

One Trump opposer in my life is the loudest. I’ve watched her disgust for him grow with each debate clip or Today Show interview she happens to see. After cartoons, of course.

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Yes. My five year-old is a staunchly against Donald Trump. Let me be clear when I say my husband and I had not said much about him before the fall. That’s when our little girl was skipping through the living room early one evening and stopped in front of the TV. CNN cut to Trump speaking live at an Iowa campaign rally. She carefully eyed him through the screen. He carried on with his usual rants about walls and how everyone, even immigrants who would be kept out by his wall, love him. She asked who he was and what he was doing. I said, “That’s Donald Trump. He wants to be President of the United States.”

She scowled and said, “Mama, he is rude!”

From the mouths of babes, amiright? This is when the questions began. They say 5 year-olds ask 900 million questions a day or something like that. I’m convinced 890 million of those are to request a snack. On this particular day, she saved 10 million questions for an impromptu preschool civics lesson.

Her: “Why is he so rude?”

Me: “Well, he is like that. That’s how he chooses to talk.”

Husband: “Because he’s a blowhard!”

Her: “What’s a blowhard?”

I scowled at my husband.

Me: “He just doesn’t say things in the nicest way.”

Her: “Why is he gonna be the President?”

Me: “Well, we don’t know that he is. He’s trying to become president.”

Husband: “Lots of people are trying to become the next president this time. They give speeches like that to try to convince people to vote for them.”

Cue our explanation of voting: “When Mommy and Daddy go to the fire station and you get a sticker. That’s when we’re voting.”

Her: “What about President Obama?”

Me: “Well, his time is almost up. You can only be president for eight years.”

Her: “Who do we want to be President?”

I thought carefully about this. I remembered asking my parents the same thing. The first election I really remember was Bush vs. Dukakis in ’88. I was seven. We had an election in our 2nd grade class. I watched debates with my grandfather in ’92. I remember pondering the political choices of my parents and grandparents. They are the first shapers of our politics and civic mindedness whether we agree with them or make a complete 180 degree turn from their views.

Me: “Well, I like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. They’re different from Donald Trump. I like what they have to say better.”

My husband went on to talk more about Clinton and Sanders. She listened before turning back to the TV. “BOO DONALD TRUMP!” She shouted. We chuckled. She lost interest in CNN and found her “My Little Ponies” as you would expect from a little kid. Months later, her dislike of Trump continues. This week she channeled her inner journalist with an in-depth one-on-one interview with Trump. She did apologize to Cookie Monster for making him be The Donald for this game. I can’t make this up.

Trump Cookie Monster

I had to talk to her when she made her own version of a protest sign with an index card and a chopstick using Disney “Frozen” markers. She marched and shouted “BOO, DONALD TRUMP! BOO, DONALD TRUMP!” Her chants started to sound less spirited and more nasty. This hurt my heart a little. She doesn’t watch that much news, right? Could the nasty political, discourse in our nation be influencing her young mind? Was she reading Huff Post? She can’t read words that have more than four letters, where was this coming from? I stopped her chant and explained that just because we aren’t voting for Donald Trump, that doesn’t mean we need to talk nasty about him. It’s a fine line to walk. Yes, I want her to be passionate about politics and protest what she feels is injustice in the world, but not do it in poor taste.

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That’s when I suggested she make a sign that is in favor of the candidate she wants to win, versus a negative one against Donald Trump. “Okay! I’ll make one with stars and sparkles that says ‘Go Hillary Clinton! You are the best! You are better than Donald Trump!'”

Sigh.

Or, I can just make plans to pay for a Poli Sci degree and watch her run a fierce smear campaign against the Republican nominee when she graduates in 2032.

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Bullseye! You got me, Target. February 22, 2016

I’ve known for awhile that one store truly has my heart more than any other. This iconic American retailer has my loyalty, my time and my money. As if my weekly, sometimes bi-weekly pilgrimages weren’t evidence enough of my dedication to shopping at this store, my children have preferences for which location they like best and which cart they prefer to ride in. As a suburban mom in my mid-thirties I can admit I’m likely their “target” customer. Pun intended.

Oh, Target! You have your wily ways of wooing me! You know I can’t stand hauling my brood around that other discount retailer. You know online won’t always cut it, even if they can bring it to my door in a few hours. I might need to try something on, or just generally peruse your shiny aisles. I’ve seen the new displays of home decor. You’re beautiful marketing geniuses and you know it. You know I’ll pay a little more for your collaborations with top designers that otherwise I can only afford on Poshmark or consignment. You also know my peers are likely to meet me at the store with their toddlers in carts for coffee because you went and put Starbucks in your stores! Ruthless, savages!

The other day I was at a stoplight, near one of your stores when my phone buzzed. My RedPerks and Cartwheel apps were alerting me that I was range of store in my city. You follow me Target. You know when I get near, like the mother ship calling me home.

But, what you did last week topped it all. There is no discount on yoga pants or throw pillows that could ever rival the type of happiness you brought last week. Congratulations Target. You now own my soul, too. You cemented my devotion for all eternity. You made our relationship even stronger with this slick move. How?

You brought Gwen Stefani into it.

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I mean, Gwen was kind of part of my Target life a few years ago. My baby had some Harajuku Mini clothes. But this was better! Target, you took one of my favorite singers of all time and let her perform her new single in a happy, sparkling live music video during the Grammy’s. “Make Me Like You” is catchy pop perfection and you know it. You had me in front of the TV and on Twitter squealing with other fans like I’m not a sane adult. Costume changes! Roller skating in your shiny bullseye logo! A neon sign reading “Blake’s” in the video, an obvious nod to Blake Shelton. Oh yes, you know how my southern girl demographic loves Blake. It’s like how we love Lilly Pulitzer and we all know what happened when you put that in your stores. Who remembers #PinkSunday?

But Target, the coup de gras for you and me came when you forced me to do something I haven’t done in at least decade. (Wait, when did I get that iPod Mini? 2006? I dunno.) I did something I never thought I’d do again and laughed at my mom and stepdad for doing just this Christmas. I bought a CD. Yes. In 2016, I Amy, bought a CD. I pre-ordered Gwen’s new album “This Is What The Truth Feels Like” from you because you promised me four extra bonus tracks exclusive to Target. I was so excited by your celebrity marketing that I just bought it, not even checking to see if I had bought a digital download or a CD. I don’t even know if there was a digital download. Was there? No idea. Congrats. You got me to buy a CD. I already pre-ordered it on iTunes too, but you know I’ll be dusting off the CD player for those 4 bonus tracks. I think the CD player in my car works. We’ll see March 18, won’t we?

Your job is done, Target. Do you now tattoo the bullseye on my body somewhere? Wait, no. That’s stupid. Unless Gwen says it’s cool, then I’ll do it.

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A Game- February 10, 2016

Monday I was sad my team lost so I told myself it was just a game. A football game. Our nation’s largest millionaires slam into each other causing possible irreparable brain damage. It’s America showing some of our most indulgent and barbaric behavior.

It is, but it’s not. It means more.

I was surprised at how genuinely sad I was that our Carolina Panthers lost Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos Sunday night. I didn’t cry, that’s stupid, but there was some sulking and eating my feelings.

The story of this year’s Super Bowl goes deeper for us. See, we have a group of friends that make up our Fantasy Football league. We are six married couples. We became close friends after four couples (including us) were neighbors for several years. We all share a mutual love of crass humor and loud laughs. We have hosted the Super Bowl for several years. Last year was a fiasco as we inadvertently poisoned our friends with my brilliant “Build Your Own Nachos” bar idea. The source of everyone barfing the next day was either baby diaper fecal contamination or the more likely source, a virus. Our friends were able to joke about this through the year, thankfully. Two Fantasy team names were “Super Bowl Upchuck” and my team “Tainted Queso.”

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This year we had to have everyone back, even with the poisoning. You see, this was our Super Bowl. I’ve been a Carolina Panthers fan since the team came to our state when I was a teen. My husband grew up outside of Denver, following the Broncos’ every heartbreaking Super Bowl loss with a framed and signed John Elway jersey on his wall. That was before he got to do highlights of his team winning the big game his first year as a sportscaster. Years later, he would marry me and live in North Carolina. He happily adopted the Panthers as his NFC team, and I embraced the Broncos as my AFC team. Oh, I can’t forget a key part of this. My husband graduated from Auburn University. We all know Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a Heisman winning Auburn alumni.

Truly our Super Bowl.

We promised our friends we would just buy food and not cook anything. We pleaded with them to give us another chance after the poisoning. They shared our excitement for “our Super Bowl” and packed our living room with smiling faces wearing Panthers blue. My husband wore his Broncos jersey under his Panthers jersey. He was in enemy territory, after all.

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The kids cheered and begged for Panthers noses and whiskers. I gave my son’s old infant Newton jersey to our friend’s new baby to wear for the game. We took turns snuggling him between wrangling children. Like all Americans we shared beer and wings while scratching our heads over Mountain Dew’s “Puppy, Baby, Monkey” commercial. We awarded this year’s Fantasy champ our league’s trophy. It’s a bra with tassel pasties on a box spray painted gold. True story. Our friends left and my husband comforted me, promising our young team would be back in a few years. I know he’s right.

kids super bowl

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Wednesday we got a box at the door. My father-in-law sent my husband a championship hat and t-shirt. He kindly didn’t send youth sizes to my children. I appreciate that. The sting is still there. I really thought the Panthers would win.

Grey Super Bowl

As silly as I feel being upset about this game, I feel I’m justified. This wasn’t just a game. It was our teams in the Super Bowl. I guess I’m also saying it’s never just football.

It’s seeing my husband feel like he can’t lose.

It’s dressing up my kids who can’t wait to see their friends in the same colors.

It’s forgiving friends willing to laugh with us.

It’s a father surprising his son with a thoughtful gift.

I don’t care if football is America’s guilty pleasure. It’s more than just a game.

 

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Pajama Jams- January 21, 2016

Before we had kids winter meant watching basketball on TV and having multiple leather coats without worry that they would get ruined. Now winter means we brace ourselves for the inevitable string of snotty, barf days. My children are sticky, sneaky germ incubators. They are seemingly fine, begging for food and cartoons with their usual gusto. Then I run upstairs. I’m likely grabbing hand sanitizer because, you know, winter. When I come back down they are suddenly glassy-eyed and puny. I swear sometimes it happens that fast.

Last week was that week. It actually started with me this time. Cold and sinus pressure. I put on a movie for my son and laid on the couch before falling into a dark hole of watching 90’s alt-rock videos on You Tube. Don’t judge me! I was in a mucas daze. You know Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots were awesome in their day. I looked up from a Sublime video to see my two year-old looking flushed and pitiful. After that it was four days of a fever higher than 100. He had Herpangina. That’s basically Hand Foot and Mouth without the hands and feet. It’s terrible. Avoid it at all costs. You can borrow my hand sanitizer.

Since my son and I were both feeling so lousy, on school days I would quickly take my daughter through carpool before heading straight home. This meant I threw my hair in a top knot, smashed my glasses on my face and stayed in my comfy pajama pants, never planning to get out of the car. This particular day I looked extra ridiculous. You can see the photo below. That sweatshirt is one my parents bought me before college as they moved me on campus in ’99. I was probably listening to alt-rock at the time. This is how I looked, please note that you can’t see the ski cap with the beer logo I was also wearing:

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Yeah, technically those flats are Crocs. Remember when I confessed my flashback MTV binge earlier in this post? Yeah, thanks for continuing to not judge me. Anyway, since I had the best laid plans to NOT get out of the car, I bet you can guess where this story is going.

Yep. We were running late as I put my sick kid in his pajamas and my preschooler with her backpack in the car. We hit every light. I stared at the red stoplight before looking down at my magenta pants. “No. No. NO! WHY didn’t I leave earlier?!” I whipped into the carpool lane to find all the teachers gone. Carpool was over. I figured I’d call the preschool principal from the car. I’d politely explain how pitifully sick we were and if she could come snag the healthy child that would be tremendous. I was doing the school a favor by not spreading my germs, right? Well, I didn’t have to do that. I looked up and saw the green security light at the school entrance. It wasn’t quite 9:30 am! The red light came on and the doors locked at 9:30. I had maybe 60 seconds to get my child with her sparkly backpack through those double doors. I ran, coughing in the cold air. I took my keys and wedged them in the door on the ground to prop it open before running back to the car. Please, God don’t let anyone see me out of my vehicle! The entrance was only about 30 feet long, but there were still good odds someone would see me looking like a hungover bag lady.

I pulled my daughter out of her seat, draped her coat over her shoulders as she looked confused. “We’re in a big hurry! You’re going to have to walk in by yourself, okay?” I mumbled something about not wanting to leave her brother alone in the car, which she knew was total garbage. Preschool protocol states that you are to walk your child to their class if you arrive after 9:30. Well, it wasn’t after 9:30 and there was no way I was walking inside the building in my pajamas and Crocs. I heard, “But, Mommy!” I shoved her bag in her arms and we started walking toward my makeshift door stop. “But, Mommy! Wait! My snack for the class!” Ugh! We have the snack today! I looked in the passenger seat to see the huge basket we had filled with pretzels, grapes and a jug of juice for the hungry 4 year-old class. I thought, “She could carry it, right?” I snatched the basket and ran with her to the door. She looked up at me bewildered.

In one of my poorest parenting moments I looked down at her and said, “Okay, you can carry it in, can’t you!? It’s not that heavy!” I knew good and well that her backpack, coat and the basket weighed down by a full jug of juice was way too much for my 37 lb. child to carry. Sorry. There was NO WAY I was walking in. Her classroom was ten steps from the door. She could make it. My daughter then gave me a look with all the disgust one can muster. “FINE! Whatever, Mom!” I couldn’t even be mad at the sass. She was right. I was pathetic.

I have never felt like a worse human than when I kept my body outside the door and peered down the hall as my tiny preschooler dragged all her paraphernalia, straining as she pulled. The worst part? I laughed. I LAUGHED! I laughed at her frustration, at my absurdity and my parental failings. I laughed at all of it as I rushed back to the car. I did hear a teacher say “Oh, sweetie! Let me help you!” I can’t be sure in my haste, but I’m almost positive her voice was dripping with judgement.

I got in the warm car and turned on some alt rock. I tapped along to the beat in my Crocs.

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