The Obvious Question When Your Kids are 35 Years Apart

“No, they’re both my sons,” I answered as his eyes widened. It happens every time people begin to understand that I have kids whose ages are 35 years apart.

“I hate you!” our six-year-old Richard yelled because I wouldn’t let him throw a toy across the room.

“I love you, son,” I replied.

It’s not the dialog we had in mind when we decided to have a child later in life. I’m certain we each pictured some variation of our family walking down the street laughing and holding hands, not being shouted at by an angry child, disciplining him, or arguing with each other about should he or shouldn’t he bring a toy to the dinner table.

I’m a Baby Boomer, retired and collecting Social Security. I have two adult children from my first marriage and I write, work in my woodshop, enjoy our home, raise bees, and help raise our son, Richard. I don’t miss leaving for the office in the morning and I celebrate that by drinking three cups of coffee before breakfast and one cup after just to relax. What possessed me to want another child?

Simple. I love my wife and I want to make her happy, and I love kids and always wanted a big family. My wife, Mindy, was never married and never had children. We’re happy, we could afford it, and I knew she wanted to be a mom and I always enjoyed being a dad. I view our decision to have a child as a selfless act, although not everyone shares that point of view. I avoid those people because I want to stay positive. Our son has fulfilled both of us and made us happier, notwithstanding his childish bouts of “I hate you.”

I’ve heard from friends, “Shouldn’t you be able to relax and not argue with or about children?”

Other friends tell me, “You’re nuts and you always have been.”

I tell them all, “I am relaxed, and I have to argue about something, so why not kids?”

They are all satisfied with their first set of kids. I’m satisfied with all my kids. One of my best childhood friends was a guy named Lew who had four brothers in a huge house. There was a second house on their property and his grandparents lived there. It was an early example of a multi-generational living situation and I was secretly envious.

I also sought divorce from my ex-wife when our daughter was fifteen and our son thirteen. I missed some of their growth because of divorce dynamics.

I do have to admit that late parenthood also has issues.

When my older son, Greg, now 39, was up for a weekend, I took my two sons out for ice cream. As we approached the counter, the guy waiting to serve us looked at me, pointed at Richard and asked with feigned warmth, “Is that your grandson?”

“No, they’re both my sons,” I answered as his eyes widened. It happens every time people begin to understand that I have children whose ages are 35 years apart.

There are also potential health issues. Time published an article by Jeffrey Kluger in the April 11, 2013 edition, entitled, “Too Old to be a Dad.” He cites data that concludes kids of older dads have higher incidences of psychological and physical problems, specifically memory function. Then he goes on to name well-known older fathers from the entertainment world. That seems to contradict his point or else those older entertainers were his database and they had memory loss. He didn’t say.

So, I have to admit, there is risk in fathering a child in my sixties, but the biggest risk is that I’ll leave Mindy a widowed single parent. Am I playing family roulette, betting that I’ll live to a ripe old age? What happens if my roulette number doesn’t pay off? Perhaps my age won’t ripen after all.

To what age will I live if my number pays off?

My paternal great-grandfather lived to 100, and that was all before the invention of antibiotics, suggesting he had a very strong constitution. My maternal great-grandfather lived to 98. Did I inherit those genes? Doubtful. My Dad and his father both lived to 88. Sadly, Dad lost his mind a few years before he died. My wife tells me, “I think you’re losing yours.” I don’t answer because wives can also drive men out of their minds with needless worry, in addition to losing memory to the aging process. Maybe I have a little of both working. Uh-oh.

So, family longevity is in my favor and I guess secretly I’m betting that I’ll be around for a while. Maybe not a hundred years like my great-grandfather, but I certainly look forward to watching our son graduate college. I’ll be in my eighties, that is, as they say down south, “God willin’ and the creek don’t rise!”

What’s changed from raising my first two in my 30s? First of all, it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison because I’m not only married to a different woman, I also have the benefit of more than 30 years’ experience. Back then I worked 50 or 60 hours a week building a career and now I am home all day except for excursions to doctors, the gym, and a weekly writing workshop.

I took my older two to school in their early grades and now, our son takes the bus. My older two spent their childhoods in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and two houses in New Jersey. My younger son has lived in New York since he was born, although we moved from a smaller home in the boonies to a larger more suburban home. There’s some stability there. My older kids went to public schools, and we started Richard in private school and he’s now in third grade, still in private school.

There are similarities too. They’re all my children and, while that’s obvious, it’s also rhetorical. I’m proud of them, I love them and I see myself in their faces. They are part of my desire to leave a legacy. There are other similarities too. For example, kids are not naturally neat and I’m not sure that neatness can be taught. It’s inherent and none of my kids had it in their youth. Similarly, kid’s toys tend to be specific to the era. Our younger son loves Legos and his creations cover every horizontal surface. That toy didn’t click together into shapes when my older kids were his age. They had Cabbage Patch Dolls, Teddy Ruxpin, Transformers, and watched Sesame Street. Richard watches Netflix and plays Minecraft on his iPad.

They all seem to depend on me to one extent or another. Richard completely because of his age, but older son Greg too because he’s had trouble launching a career. I hired my executive trainer for him and paid for it. My oldest child is a physician who considers herself entirely independent right down to her BMW, but even she used to invite me to her home and add, “Please bring lunch and your tools.” Something always needed repair.

What do I conclude? Kids are great if you can afford them, play with them, be there for them, and instill good values. If one or more of those is impossible, then enjoy your grandchildren if you have any. There’s an advantage to them once you reach a certain age. That advantage is grandchildren go home eventually and their parents are responsible for them. Richard is home all the time, although fortunately we can still manage well.

The other night he hurt himself in the bathtub. He was crying and I was out for the evening at my writing workshop. My wife said it wasn’t a fun evening. She missed that TV show she likes and I missed the whole thing.

Selected Instructions for Helping Non-Babies Fall Asleep (Based on Advice for Babies)

It turns out the techniques parents use to get baby to sleep can be more widely applied to … just about anyone!

It turns out the techniques parents use to get baby to sleep can be more widely applied to … just about anyone! Read on to see where you can apply those sleep induction skills elsewhere in your life:

Grandparents

“When your grandma is very upset and clearly needs to go down for a nap, pick her up and shush very loudly in her ears. Spittle may fly and shortness of breath will likely set in soon, but do not be deterred. If she begins to scream, match the volume and intensity of your shush to the shrieking sound. This is to help recreate the loud, cacophonous nature of the womb.”

Siblings

“Your brother is nodding off on the couch but keeps jolting awake – he needs a little nudge. Pick him up, lay him on his side, and swing him back and forth. Do not be afraid to really get some altitude out of your lifts. This, too, matches the conditions of being in utero, because pregnant women sit in extremely violent hammocks much of the day.”

Dog

“If you notice signs that your dog is getting drowsy, drop everything you’re doing and find a piece of large, square cloth. Lay the blanket down at an angle so that it looks like a diamond, and fold the top triangle down almost all the way – leave about an inch. Lay your dog down on its back (a natural resting position for dogs) with its head protruding past the fabric: fold the right corner down to the left and tuck behind the writhing canine’s tail, followed by the top left corner folded down to the right past the jackhammer-like kicking of the leg, and bring up the bottom and tuck it into the collar. Really swaddle that canine tightly; it may even seem too tight, but Fido’s serene visage will indicate otherwise. Your dog will instantly fall into a deep, restful sleep.”

Cat

“Kitty is having a tough time settling in for its 30th nap of the day. It’s time to strap that cat into the car seat and go for a scenic drive! Try to avoid surface streets, because every time you come to a stop, kitty will wake up and screech at you, swiping erratically. It is strongly advised that you drive on the highway, finding a time where there will not be any traffic. If your cat escapes the buckle, return home and swaddle it while wearing protective goggles.”

Roommate

“Your roommate is struggling, tossing and turning in bed with a bad liquor headache, and the shut-eye she needs just isn’t forthcoming. Bring her to the gym on campus, find a yoga ball, and cradle your roomie while bouncing vigorously up and down on the giant inflated ball. You can also swivel, slow down and speed up, and sing her a Chainsmokers song. If your back begins to throb, take a break by standing up, but continue to mimic the feel of the yoga ball by jumping in such a way that you don’t actually ever leave the ground but rather alternate between tip-toes and flat feet.”

Parents

“Your father is not relaxing in his recliner and is straining to find those sweet Zs. Give him a small plastic nipple with a stuffed animal attached, and Pops will hold the little fuzzy bear and suck his way to the Kingdom of Dreams. Pick it up and reinsert as many times as needed; it’s also advisable to sprinkle your dad with a dozen more such nipples so he can reach blindly and find one himself when he drops it.”

Rabbit

“Your rabbit is probably gassy! That’s all. Lie it down on its back like you were going to swaddle it, and work its legs so that it looks like it’s riding a bicycle. Bunnies love to kick anyway so this will go over well. This intense leg movement works the gas out, but pretend not to hear the farts to spare the little fluffer some embarrassment. You can also give the bunny some gas drops with a syringe, as long as you understand that you’re doing this strictly because you’re so sleep-deprived. Gas drops are a scam.”

Stranger

“You come across a stranger trying to nap on the grass at a park, but they’re having trouble. You’re prepared: the Ergo is already tied around your waist. Hoist the stranger up over your shoulders, guide its legs through the leg holes, then click him or her in. Tighten the straps for a snug fit and use the hood if it’s sunny and you’re worried about a sunburn. It’s a good idea to find a walking path where you can mosey without stopping, because it’s the close human contact combined with motion that will ensure a restful slumber for this rando.”

Now That My Kids Are Big: 25 Things I Will Never Have to Do Again

I have to remind myself that it wasn’t all sunny days and cuddle-time. I have to remind myself that every phase of motherhood has its joys and challenges.

There are eight years between our eldest and youngest sons (with two girls in between). Our youngest recently turned 13, which means that my husband and I will have spent 15 years – a decade and a half, roughly 5,475 days – parenting teenagers before we tap out in 2024, not that I’m counting.

I actually (mostly) enjoy being the mom of a houseful of young adults and almost-adults. They are smart and interesting, and every day they make me laugh. But whoever told me, all those years ago when I was wrangling a houseful of little ones, that it would get easier was a bold-faced liar.

What I wouldn’t give now to be able to schedule their play dates or coax my kids into submission with just the promise of an extra episode of “Backyardigans.” How I would love to be able to physically move them out of harm’s way or strap them into their carseats and just drive them around until they stop fussing.

Yes, in many ways having small children was easier, and I loved those years. In fact, though I wouldn’t trade my teenagers for all the world, I am one of those moms who would gladly go back and do it all over again. Since I can’t go back, I sometimes have to remind myself that it wasn’t all sunny days and cuddle-time. I have to remind myself that every phase of motherhood has its joys and challenges.

When that doesn’t work, when I’m really longing for the simpler days of life with little children, it helps to stop and think about all the things that weren’t easy about having small ones and all the things I’ll never have to do again now that all my kids are big. Things like:

  • Catch vomit in my hands
  • Be used as a human napkin
  • Simultaneously nurse a baby and feed a squirming toddler
  • Hear “Swiper! No swiping!”
  • Sing “The Wheels on the Bus” all the way to the Gulf Coast
  • Interrupt a conversation to smell another person’s bottom
  • Get up in the middle of the night and step on a wet diaper – or a Lego
  • Fish something out of another person’s mouth
  • Bargain with someone to get her to eat
  • Eat any place that doubles as an arcade
  • Live with the shame of just throwing a towel over the spot in the bed where someone peed in the night
  • Assemble a doll house at one a.m.
  • Have the panicky realization that we’re only an hour into a 10-hour road trip and our car’s DVD player just stopped working
  • Try to sneak money under the pillow and pretend it was there all along
  • Cut grapes in half
  • Hide in my closet to eat the last cookie
  • Hear the words, “Hey kids! Wanna watch a show?” and know that was foreplay
  • Calm someone down who is hysterical because his sock is twisted
  • Go out to dinner with my husband only to eat our meals in shifts
  • Fall asleep reading “Blueberries for Sal”
  • Be frantically shaken awake because I fell asleep reading “Blueberries for Sal”
  • Count to three to get a response
  • Spend half the morning running errands before someone tells me I have spit-up down the back of my shirt
  • Carefully examine the contents of a diaper in hopes of finding that penny
  • Watch even one more episode of Barney

Of course, none of these minor annoyances ever really lessened the joy of parenting small children, just as none of the worry and stress of raising big kids lessens the joy of watching them grow into adults. No, parenting big kids might not be a cakewalk, but I won’t wish even one of those 5,475 days away. I know from experience how quickly they will be over and how much I will wish I could do it all again.

My 4-foot, 11 inch Mother is the Biggest Person in Any Room

If my parents had stayed in the Bronx, I might have grown up thinking my family was like all the rest.

This is a submission in our monthly contest. November’s theme is Gratitude. Enter your own here!
Mothers. We come in various ages, shapes, sizes, and temperaments. We bring our love, our quirks, our fears, and sometimes a little bit of our crazy to the job of parenting.
My parents grew up in the Bronx, New York, as next door neighbors. Yes, my mom literally married “the boy next door.” They are 100 percent Italian and grew up in a neighborhood of other Italians.
I’m sure they thought that everybody woke up to the smell of “gravy” cooking on Sunday mornings in preparation for the 3 p.m. dinner with 19 other relatives. I’m sure it was normal for families to scream and yell and gesture wildly during meals and for mothers to chase people around the house with wooden spoons and other impromptu weapons of torture.
If my parents had stayed in the Bronx, I might have grown up thinking my family was like all the rest. But my parents relocated us to Orange County, California, where it quickly became evident that my family was not the norm.
Let me rephrase that. More specifically, “one of these mothers is not like the others.” For anyone who has ever been driven crazy by their mother, I hope you can relate.
Here are a few things other moms definitely didn’t do:
Other moms did not make their child’s friends wash their underarms and feet when they came over to play after school. “You girls stink,” she would say. “You have B.O. and I don’t know if it’s your underarms or your feet, so go wash them both.”
Totally mortified, I would take my friends into the bathroom to wash up, and I would wonder if anyone would ever want to come over to my house again. Somehow, they always came back, probably because we had good snacks.
Other moms did not picket at school and start a petition when their youngest daughter was not named 8th grade valedictorian.
Other moms did not hire a stripper for their son’s family-friendly 18th birthday party in the backyard. Because what boy wouldn’t want his mother there when interacting with a stripper?
On a similar note, other moms did not also hire a stripper for their daughter’s 21st birthday dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Las Vegas, with her boyfriend and all four grandparents present.

Finally, other moms definitely did not hire an older, unattractive man to come dressed as a pink monkey for their three-year-old grandson’s birthday party and then – surprise! – take off his monkey suit to double as a stripper for the 21st birthday of her youngest daughter, terrifying all children (and adults) in attendance.
Other moms did not write a letter to Rosie O’Donnell (who had one of hottest talk shows on TV at the time where their son has just been hired in the mail room) to brag about how talented he is and how he basically should be running her show. Italians calls this the “my son” syndrome.
Other moms did not somehow force the school district to re-route the entire bus schedule so that their children could be dropped off directly in front of their house rather than on the corner bus stop like all the other kids.
Other moms did not go against the wishes of their grown children and secretly baptize their grandchild in the laundry room sink. With “permission” from the local priest, of course.
Other moms did not fill their entire car with lemons and picket in front of the car dealership (standing up through the sunroof with a giant sign that said “Lemon by BMW”) when it had mechanical problems.

Other moms did not bring a six-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade to their 17-year-old daughter’s high school prom date’s house and give it to his mother to keep in the fridge because “Jami doesn’t like beer.”
Other moms did not tell their daughter’s new boyfriend, after knowing him for five minutes, that she wants another grandchild, then add that, at this point, she doesn’t care if they get married. She will even raise the child as long as they can just make one for her.
Other moms did not block traffic at the roundabout in front of the high school at pick-up time as they stuck themselves out of the sunroof waving a giant bouquet of balloons and honking their horn to wish their daughter a Happy Birthday.

Yes, my mom did a lot of things other moms didn’t do.
On second thought, perhaps other people didn’t have a home that was constantly filled with family, friends, food, and laughter, or a mom who let her kids’ friends live with them when they needed a place to stay.
Maybe other people didn’t have a mother who “adopted” the little old lady who sat alone in the back of the church every week and invite her to family dinner every Sunday.
Maybe other people didn’t have a mother who cooked dinner for her grown children and grandchildren every Tuesday night, year after year, making nine different dishes so everyone could have their favorites.
My mom stands only 4-foot, 11 inches, but I’ve never thought of her as small. To me, she was always the biggest person in the room (and by biggest, I mean loudest).
All kidding aside – from your eldest daughter who pours the milk before the cereal, to your only son who hasn’t touched a public door handle in 20 years, to your youngest daughter who will only eat ice cream with a fork – we may have turned out a little quirky, but all in all, I guess you did okay.
So thank you, my crazy Italian mother, for all those childhood memories, for being our fiercest protector, our strongest advocate, and our worst nightmare.

There’s No Crying in Parenting

At no point in my 34 years of life had I ever been so…I want to say humbled, but the more accurate word here is humiliated.

From about 18 months to four years old, Briggs kept his meltdowns private. His behavior started small at first – random hitting for no reason, throwing temper tantrums, and what seemed like normal “terrible two” behavior, but on some sort of cocktail of Adderall and Mountain Dew.
As he has gotten older, his behavior has grown with him. We’ve gone through the spitting phase, the name calling phase, the tantrum on the floor as if his bones were made of limp noodles phase, and the screaming at the top of his lungs phase.
When he turned four (two years ago now), he escalated to directly hitting us…on purpose. The first time he punched me, I may have audibly started talking to the Lord as an intercessor for my husband, lest he be overtaken by the Spirit and hand Briggs’ own behind to him on a silver platter. I am almost certain Madea overtook my mouth as I cried out to the “Lort” on Briggs’ behalf.
Fast forward a year, and he has graduated to public displays of crazy. The first time was epic. I will literally never forget it. At no point in my 34 years of life had I ever been so…I want to say humbled, but the more accurate word here is humiliated.
Not the time I split my super sweet maroon-colored Guess jeans in gym class in sixth grade. Not the time I got busted in middle school Sharpie-ing a Nike swoosh on my Payless high-tops because I couldn’t afford the real ones. Not even the time they posted our mile run times above the water fountain in gym, and I was dead last with a light speed time of 18:18.
No, nothing thus far had ever made me feel so small as that moment in the Florida diner.
We were on our way back from a work trip to Orlando and everyone was hungry. We don’t get to travel much, so we love to check out little mom and pop types of places when we’re out of town. We stopped in this little diner called Eddie’s in Nowheresville, Florida for what the Yelp reviewers said were, “Florida’s best chicken and waffles.”
We held hands and ran through the rain to get inside the restaurant. I held Sparrow, our then six-month-old daughter, on my lap and helped Briggs manage the coloring sheet the hostess had given him as Spence made his way to the men’s room all the way in the back of the diner.
Forks clanged and men laughed from the bar. As I helped Briggs sound out the words on his children’s menu and he colored in a Spiderman, I noticed there were two women sitting in the booth directly beside our table.
They were both well-dressed and appeared to be in their late 60s. One had on an oversized necklace that reminded me of the costume jewelry my aunt used to wear, and the other had that kind of hairdo women have who would rather donate their arms to science than get wet at the pool. I imagined they both had large, flamboyant broaches for every holiday neatly displayed in some sort of well-lit case in their bedrooms.
They hadn’t noticed me…yet.
When Briggs finished coloring, he wanted to tear the paper because, naturally, Spiderman wouldn’t live in the same realm as a children’s menu. He began tearing the page and I watched it happen as if it were unfolding in slow motion. The paper’s tear went from the center of the page and, like an earthquake’s line in the dry desert clay, separated Spiderman’s foot from the rest of his body.
“Noooooooooooooooo!!” Briggs’ scream rang out across the small diner. Once filled with the loud bangs of forks and knives, the chatter of old friends catching up, and that guy who’d had one too many at the bar, it fell silent. Deafeningly silent. My son’s eyes filled with tears of rage and he crumpled up the amputated Spiderman and threw him under another family’s table.
“Pick that up, please.” I said, attempting to keep calm as everyone watched the dinner show they hadn’t paid for.
“No! I will NEVER pick it up!” he screamed back.
With everyone watching, Briggs stood up as though he’d had a change of heart and decided to pick up the balled-up menu after all. Instead, he grabbed a chair from the table beside ours, where a man sat eating by himself, and threw it.
He. Threw. A. Chair.
By this time, all eyes were on us. The entire diner was paralyzed. I looked up to see Spence tearing through the crowd to get to me. He’d heard Briggs yell all the way in the bathroom.
Without a word, I handed Sparrow over to him, took Briggs by the arm, and walked him outside into the rain. We walked passed stunned faces, horrified looks, and the hostess who looked like she might have her finger on the last “1” in 9-1-1. I smiled, walked Briggs out in the pouring rain and across the street and under an awning, where he proceeded to hit me, kick, scream, cry, and flail backwards so hard that I had to position myself between his head and the abandoned store’s brick wall behind me.
I took deep breaths and talked to him until he calmed himself. “Listen to me breathing, buddy. Deep breaths. Match my breathing,” I said as I fought to hold back tears.
Once he had it together, we walked back into the restaurant. I thought the original walk of shame was the worst thing I’d have to face that day, but I was wrong. Try going through that meltdown and then staring back at the faces of those who just spent the better part of the last 20 minutes talking about what your kid just did while making guesses at how you handled it.
I smiled again and walked Briggs back to the table by ours where he picked up his crumpled menu from the floor and uprighted the tossed chair. He apologized to the man who had been eating alone when he lost his mind as if he were tagging in Rick Flair in an early 90s wrestling match.
“I’m sorry I threw your chair, sir,” he said with his head hung in shame. The man smiled back his forgiveness.
I sat back down in my seat just as the two well-dressed ladies were getting up to leave. I desperately wanted to avoid eye contact because I felt certain they had judged me. I was convinced they’d finished their salads and lemon waters over conversations about “kids these days” and what terrible parents Spence and I must be.
Instead, the lady with the necklace stopped just behind our table on her way out. She turned to me so I had to meet her eyes with my own – and smiled. Then she mouthed the words, “You did a great job.”
I mustered a faint smile in return and lowered my head, hot tears streaking down both sides of my face.
I had never felt so completely alone as I did during that meltdown and the moments after. I may always remember that feeling, but I know I will never forget that woman’s smile. Her muted approval reminded me that no matter how many people stare or point fingers, no matter how many people disagree with the parenting decisions we make, I am doing the best I can, and that is good enough.

When One "Snore" Closes, Another Door Opens

People fall apart over money, stress, jobs, lies, but not freaking snoring, unless the issue is of course not about snoring at all.

“Do you think anyone has ever divorced her husband over snoring? Asking for a friend.”

I jokingly wrote this on social media a few weeks ago because I was up late listening to my husband slumber away. When I say that I was listening to him sleep, I mean I was unfortunately really listening. There he lay, a foot away from me, snoring loud enough to shake the walls of our home (I swear it). It was the loudest, most wretched sound I can describe to you good readers: a mixture of gurgling, choking, gasping, coughing, mumbling, and good old traditional snoring. A real medley of marital unhappiness, if you will.

This is the soundtrack to my life between the hours of 10 p.m. and six a.m., and it has been like this for a number of years. Unfortunately, as we enter middle age, the snoring is only getting worse. The infant cries in the night have been replaced by this crap and, sadly, I can’t just pop a bottle in the hubs and make the noise cease.

I roll him “beached whale style” constantly, jab him in his ribs hard enough to leave him with physical reminders of my constant frustration and irritation, and wake him out of his pseudo-slumber several times a night in hopes that I can quickly fall asleep as he startles awake and tries to settle himself back down. My tactics no longer even leave a dent in the snoring.

Just a few years back he used to snore only after he had a few beers or stayed up late watching sports. Now I swear it starts before he has fully closed his eyeballs. I don’t think he even has to be asleep to snore!

I used to become agitated, but I could deal…or move beds. I am a mother to four young daughters, so musical beds is nothing new to me. As the snoring developed into a nightly experience, my agitation also developed into anger, aggression, and really negative emotions.  Every single morning we would bicker via text regarding the previous night’s snore-a-thon.

Why doesn’t he go sleep on the couch? When is he going to call and schedule a sleep study or buy some fancy mouth guard over the internet? Why doesn’t he care that his sleep selfishness is causing me to be exhausted and perpetually pissed off at him?

At the root of it all, this marital impasse wasn’t about the actual act of snoring. It was about something so much deeper: Why does he always come first? Does he think that he needs rest more than me because he has a high stress job that requires him to keep people alive while I’m at home vacuuming and doing laundry? When we jointly decided that he would work stressful, late hours at the hospital and I would give up teaching to become a Goddess of Domesticity, did I accidentally also give up my right to a good night’s sleep? Did I sign on some dotted line that I agreed to be the lesser person in this marriage and, therefore, if one of us had to sacrifice rest, it would automatically be me so that he could be his best?

Well, hold the phone dammit!

I started to firmly believe that his nightly snoring was a personal attack on my wellbeing. He might as well kiss me good night and then say, “Good night. If you get no sleep tonight that’s probably okay because you stay home all day and do nothing, so rest up then.” Of course he never said that, he isn’t suicidal or anything. In fact, he never said anything other than sorry or that he doesn’t mean to snore. Sorry didn’t matter to me though, the resentment was so thick you could slice it with a knife.

Now I’m not exactly the type of woman who bottles up her emotions and buries them deep down in the depths of her soul. No. If I’m pissed, you’ll know about it. If you’ve upset me, you’ll hear about it, over and over and over again. There’s no guesswork in deciphering how I’m feeling. He knew that the snoring was causing major anger and rifts in our marriage. I made it fairly clear to him.

Snoring! People fall apart over money, stress, jobs, lies, but not freaking snoring, unless the issue is of course not about snoring at all. So why didn’t he just do something about it!?

As usual, we had to hit marital rock bottom before we were able to discuss the “whys.” Beneath his gurgling, snoring, middle-age manliness was some serious insecurity he was dealing with all by himself. Unlike me, my husband is the kind of person who bottles up his emotions and pushes them deep down only to have them explode once in a great while. He knew that he’d gained some middle age weight, which was contributing to the snoring. Even though he runs each and every day, he too was struggling with the beast that is “the thirties tire.” Facing middle age was another mirror that my husband wasn’t wanting to look in. While I seem to be accepting the fact that we are getting older, fatter, and grayer, he isn’t accepting that as easily. He still wants to eat, live, and drink like he’s 23 years old. No one wants to admit the golden days are long gone, I suppose.

So he kept on denying his snoring and I kept on hating him – every day – until we were able to get down to the root of his insecurity and the root of my feelings of being the lesser important human. Those kinds of marital talks are never fun. They are exhausting, they sting, they go on forever and ever, but they’re totally and completely necessary.

A week ago he went online and purchased a snore-guard. It can’t be the most comfortable thing to wear all night long, but sweet Lord it is working! He still lightly snores, but it’s tolerable – so tolerable. More importantly. I’m so grateful that this simple gesture of wearing his snore guard shows me that he does care about my comfort. It makes a world of difference in my sleep patterns and a world of difference in my appreciation for him.

Thank you, husband. Thank you for wearing your cumbersome mouth guard at night so that I can sleep and so that I know that you love me.

Fellows, if your wife tells you that you snore, then you snore. If you love your wife, if you value her and see her as equally important, buy yourself a snore guard. Nothing says I love you like a snore guard.

My Kids Said “Mom” 159 Times in 6 Hours and I Nearly Lost It…Until I Made a List

At the end of the day, let’s face it – kids and their questions are frustrating, maddening, and hilarious.

Let me start by saying that I love my children. More than anything in this world. More than the nirvana of shopping alone at Target, more than Ben & Jerry’s Truffle Kerfuffle. Even more than Maggie Smith on “Downton Abbey”.
BUT. If I hear the word “Mom” just one more time today, I am going to lose my shit.
In fact, I just googled “how many questions do kids ask in a day” because I know I’m not alone here. Are you ready for this? According to a UK study, moms field nearly 300 questions a day from their offspring, making them the most quizzed people around, above even teachers, doctors, and nurses.
Fun fact: Girls aged four are the most curious, averaging a question every one minute, 56 seconds of their waking day.
No wonder emails go unanswered, laundry piles up, library books expire before they are read, we scramble at the last minute for that birthday gift (please don’t ever leave me, Amazon Prime). We are constantly interrupted during any given task.
As an experiment, I decided to make a list of all the times I heard the word “Mom” followed by a question or comment for the rest of the day. I grabbed a small notebook like Harriet the Spy and lasted six hours before my hand cramped from all the writing. In those six hours, I was beckoned ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-NINE times.
While I won’t torture you with reading all 159 questions and comments posed to me, here’s a small sampling below:

Nine-year-old daughter

“Mom, come look at this picture of Miley Cyrus.” (Please let it be the Hannah Montana version of her.)
“Mom, guess how many butt cheeks are in our house?” (Um…does the dog count?)
“Mom, who are you?” (Like, in an existential way?)
“Mom, this kid at school said that one middle finger equals 20 bad words. How is that possible?” (Oh, it’s possible.)
“Mom, I just found a HUMONGOUS house in California and it only costs $14 million dollars.” (Okay, I’ll get right on that purchase, sweetie.)
“Mom, can I put a ghost detector app on your phone?” (I’d kind of rather not know when there’s a ghost near me sooo…no.)
“Mom, I have a super duper secret.” (There should be no secrets from your mother. Ever.)
“Mom, do you want to play catch with me?” (Can’t, because I need a free hand to write down the 29 questions you will ask me while playing.)
“Mom, can I have a timer?”
“Mom, I can run down the hall and back 10 times in 37 seconds. Do you want to try?” (I’m good, thanks.)
“Mom, do I have to get the flu shot tomorrow? Because I’d like another few days to rest in peace before they poke a hole in my arm.”
“Mom, I got hurt.” (x3)
“Mom, what are we doing today?”
“Mom, can I invite a friend over?”
“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
“Mom, can I have candy?”
“Mom, do you think my Halloween costume will be good?”
“Mom, can you tell the dog to move so I don’t hurt him?”
“Mom, is today October 15th?”
“Mom, what’s a compass?”
“Mom (watching me type), why are you doing that?”

15-year-old son

“Mom, can you tell Ava to leave? I’m trying to watch a show.”
“Mom, have you seen my phone?” (x3)
“Mom, I can’t find my phone.”
“Mom, can I borrow your phone?”
“Mom, she’s bothering me again.”
“Mom, what are you writing?”
“An article.”
“On what?”
“How many questions I’m asked in a day.”
“Why, is it a lot?”
“Seriously? I’m adding that one.”

18-year-old daughter (away at college)


Mind you, I did this experiment on a Sunday, and my husband was home the whole time. He is a great, very involved, hands-on dad. But do you know how many questions I heard them ask him during that time?
ONE.
When I said no to playing catch with my daughter, she asked him to play. He immediately said yes, probably because he wasn’t exhausted from 158 prior questions.
When I sat down to write this, I only had to glance at the kids’ lists to realize something significant. The older they get, the less questions they ask. The less they share. The less they actually talk. They have their friends and their smarter-than-a-mom phones.
I mean, my older kids would never ask me what the population of China is, they would simply google it. To my little one, I’m still the go-to, the one with all the answers. And I guess that’s a pretty great thing to be.
It’s hard to face the fact that, though my older kids still need me, it’s just not in the same way my younger child does. Someday all too soon my nine-year-old will be my 18-year-old. One morning, I’ll wake up and there won’t be anyone left to pepper me with questions all day long. And the thought of that makes me sad.
Sad enough to try harder not to lose my shit when I hear the word “Mom” one too many times in an hour. Because, at the end of the day, let’s face it – kids and their questions are frustrating, maddening, and hilarious.
Feel free to comment with some of your kids’ best questions. I’ve only heard upwards of 159 today. I think I can handle a few more.
This post was previously published on the author’s blog.

The Lesson in the Succulent

It’s so many of us who have moved our own hardier selves right down to the bottom of the list of things that need to be cared for.

I’m losing another succulent.
Rather I am, in fact, losing the last remnant of my third succulent arrangement that I bought after the first two succumbed to the very same illness this last pathetic sucker has.
What’s the illness, you ask?
Neglect.
Succulents are easy, they say. They’re hardy. They don’t require much and they’re hard to kill and they look pretty and they’re totally trending on Etsy.
Sign me up.
Except around here, where there are two smallish humans and two medium-sized humans and two large humans and one dog who all are slightly less hardy than, say, a succulent, and require much more than a sunny corner of the house and an occasional squirt of water, all “easy to keep alive” means is you’re moving to the back of the list, buddy.
And the list is long, isn’t it? It’s three square meals cooked from scratch with farm fresh organic and locally sourced ingredients prepared with love (read: take out) that everyone hates and makes gagging noises over and feeds to the dog when you aren’t looking.
It’s a never ending mountain of laundry that we are doomed to cart up and down 800 flights of stairs everyday like Sisyphus, except worse, because it also smells like armpits mixed with old milk.
It’s bills, too, and groceries and work and worrying about them and worrying about us and worrying about our marriages and worrying about our parents and worrying about our cholesterol and cancer and trying desperately to remember if we locked the door before we laid our head down.
It’s taking on the full responsibility of an entire household like a martyr goddess because a) we’re good at getting this crap done and b) we love the heck out of these people and want to see them thrive.
So the succulent falls to the bottom of the pile. Tomorrow – we say to ourselves as we lie there debating whether to check the doors for the second time – we will take care of it. We will water it and trim it up nice and clean off the dead parts and put it in the sun and love up on it a little bit until it remembers that it’s supposed to grow and not wither away into another mess we have to clean up.
Tomorrow. Or the next day. Definitely next week.
Sound familiar?
This succulent is so many of us. It’s so many of us mamas and caretakers and lovers and servers who get so busy in the noble pursuit of keeping the people we love alive that we have moved our own hardier selves right down to the bottom of the list.
Where we are busy getting neglected.
Where we are thirsty and wrinkly and shriveled up and, well, kind of sad looking.
I get it. Believe me. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in some silly mama task, like cleaning out the kids’ closets, and maybe the radio is on and I’m jamming a little bit and my caffeine has kicked in and it annoys the freaking hell out of me that I have to stop and pee or eat or attend to some other stupid basic human need like catching my breath.
Then other times, I accidentally sit down on the couch before it is sit-down-on-the-couch-time and my body is like “oh, thank God,” and my kids are like “oh, heck no,” and I can physically feel myself drying up and dying a little.
It’s times like that, when I feel this weird kinship with my succulent that was once lovely and is now sort of struggling, that I’m compelled to remind us all that “easy to keep alive” (a.k.a. “harder to kill”) doesn’t mean immortal.
Let this little sad guy be a warning to us all and maybe the impetus to take care of ourselves once in a while. Maybe even often. Because nothing thrives without a little loving care.
Including us.
This was originally published on the author’s Facebook page.

Tragedy and Joy: Life as a Small Child

The pain she felt over the loss of her balloon was real, as much as I may joke about it.

There was a great tragedy in my family the other day. It came suddenly, while I was sitting at the kitchen table and my kids were playing outside. The idyllic quiet of early evening in the country was jarringly broken by my daughter’s hysterical scream.

I jumped up and, heroically abandoning the Facebook post I was working on, ran outside to save the day. But I was too late.

As I followed my son’s finger pointing up high into the darkening azure sky, I saw a faint speck growing smaller and smaller, and I understood my daughter’s pain.

Her balloon, Balloony as she so creatively named it, was making a frenetic escape to the stratosphere. As my daughter fell apart in my arms, I knew life would never be the same, unless I was able to find the other identical balloon that was somewhere in our house.

I had a faint idea of the existence of the renegade balloon’s twin, but the half-hearted attempt to find it was woefully insufficient and, due to the sedative effectiveness of the animated baby animals dancing on the TV, I soon traded that chore for more the more pressing and productive task of preparing the bedtime accoutrements.

As I lay in bed soothing my emotionally wounded little girl, she opened her floodgates of loss, expanding beyond the scope of the escaped balloon. “When is our dog going to die?” she pensively asked.

Fortunately I am an experienced and prepared parent, so I was able to give her the answer she needed to rebuild her fragile psyche. “I don’t know,” I replied, and with that cleared up she soon fell into her slumber.

The pain she felt over the loss of her balloon was real, as much as I may joke about it. I felt the depth of her pain through the anguished cries and emotionally charged declarations of never ever owning another balloon as long as life itself existed. I too have known loss, and it sucks.

Ah, but redemption came early this morning in the form of a photo my loving and far more capable wife sent me. My darling little girl, who had so steadfastly declared her recently imposed lifelong abstinence of balloon ownership, was proudly and ecstatically showing off the fugitive balloon’s estranged twin. All was right with the world.

Kids are so simple when they’re this young, and I love that about them. The grief, the joy, the frustration, the glee, the emotions they feel are all-encompassing and felt without analysis. Her world was rocked by the loss of that balloon, and there was no coming back from such a profoundly tragic incident. Until her world was righted again, and there was no longer any evidence of tragedy.

This ability to change with circumstances, to adapt oneself so completely and readily without thinking about it at all, is an incredible display of resilience. This is part of the miracle of childhood. Once we’ve grown and become set in our ways and our modes of thought, this resilience becomes far less pliable, disintegrating our ability to adapt and overcome.

Kids live in the present. Whatever is happening right now is what is important, and anything on either side of now is irrelevant. While this may not be absolutely true, it is a fantastic lesson for us stodgy adults who shift between reminiscing over the past and perseverating over the future.

Live in the now. Sure, you lost your balloon and it hurts. Feel that pain, live in that pain, express with great and boisterous emotion the hurt you feel. When the new balloon comes into your life, feel the joy, express the glee, scream out the ecstasy that overwhelms you. People might think you’re weird. When’s the last time you saw a three-year-old worry that people would think she’s weird?

How to Know You’ve Turned Into a Country Bumpkin

When you first move to the country, after living in the city your whole life, you stick out like a perfectly manicured thumb.

When you first move to the country, after living in the city your whole life, you stick out like a perfectly manicured thumb. You don’t know the rules, the customs, or the subtle societal mores dictating behavior. You have misgivings about fitting in: Why doesn’t anyone else wear bangs? Am I supposed to dry clean this Carhartt coat? Will I lose my chopstick dexterity without a Korean barbeque within walking distance? To your rural neighbors – most of whom belong to one of three familial factions – you are an outsider, an interloper, a passing transient who won’t last through the harvest.
But you do.
You make it through that harvest and the next, and before you know it, 10 years have passed since you moved to the sticks. Your initial reservations dried up long ago like the spring mud that evaporates into filthy summer dust and covers everything. Now, you feel like Linda Hamilton in “Terminator 2” with a chiseled resilience to endure any hardship thrown your way: 15 snow days in one month due to impassable roads? Meh. Local grocery store doesn’t carry Sriracha sauce? Whatever.
But be honest, City Girl, you are still a socially-driven creature with a hardwired need for acceptance. A fleeting doubt escapes: Do I pass? Am I one of them? If you’re still not sure whether your transition from City Slick to Country Hick is complete, here are 18 ways to tell:
1| You’ve conceded that it takes 30 minutes to drive anywhere, but you have zero tolerance for traffic. If you can’t go 65 mph the whole way without stopping, you fly into road rage – UNLESS you spot a turtle moseying across the highway, in which case you slam on the brakes and help the little feller to safety.
2 | When your friend’s baby registry includes a camouflage crib set, not only do you not snicker, you buy it for her.
3 | You’ve synched your kids’ vaccination schedule to match your septic tank evacuations so you don’t fall too far behind on either. Let’s see, the last time we had the septic tank pumped, little Janey got her MMRI … and now the toilets are overflowing, so she must be due for her booster shot!
4 | When you say “My hood has some rough places” you literally mean “The triangular amenity attached to my coat that covers my head in a storm has some places where the material is not smooth.”
5 | You’ve witnessed at least one squirrel/possum/rabbit giving birth, then Googled: “What do I feed newborn squirrels/possums/rabbits?” Followed by: “How to raise baby squirrels/possums/rabbits?” And finally: “How to dispose of dead, possibly diseased, baby squirrels/possums/rabbits?”
6 | The Lands End catalog makes you feel frumpy and out of style.
7 | What you find most offensive about the show “Naked and Afraid” isn’t its derogatory depiction of women, its cheesy dialogue, or the ridiculous premise; no, you’re most offended by the phony way they split firewood. An axe? Please.
8 | You’ve attended a donkey basketball game and knew most of the players.
9 | You don’t object to your husband’s decision to mow giant crop circles in the yard with the tractor in order to “add a little mystery to summer.”
10 | In the winter, you don’t drive anywhere without chains, a winch, blankets, boots, road flares, and a dish to pass, because country folk are known for their flash-mob-stuck-in-a-ditch potlucks.
11 | Your kids have spent more time in hunting blinds than in a shopping mall.
12 | You are proficient in vehicle mud spatter. By the subtle variation in color and texture of the muck dried onto someone’s car, you can tell the exact road they live on.
13 | Homegrown tomatoes have absolutely ruined you for the pale, mealy ones in the grocery store, and even though you spend a small fortune growing your own, every spring you feel compelled to plant a vegetable garden.
14 | You schedule your kids’ dentist appointments on the opening day of rifle season because you know there won’t be any school.
15 | You couldn’t care less about wearing white after Labor Day, but you wouldn’t be caught dead without the snowplow on your tractor after Halloween.
16 | When your husband gives you a diamond bracelet for your birthday, you smile politely and thank him, but deep down you’re disappointed because what you really wanted was that set of Waterhog floor mats.
17 | You’ve become a venison snob; if it’s not a bow kill, you want no part of it.
18 | You learn the secret to a happy marriage isn’t spending time together; it’s letting your husband have a pole barn.
Obviously, “You can take the girl out of the city, but you’ll never take the city out of the girl,” is just a meaningless adage intended to keep the blood lines pure. Rest easy, sister. You’re killing it in the country.
This article was originally published on Sammiches and Psych Meds.