Ten Proverbs That Unintentionally Taught Me to Be a Better Parent

I doubt some of the parenting advice I gleaned from these proverbs was exactly what the original authors intended, but it was helpful nonetheless.

I’m not really one for trite sayings in general, but especially trite sayings about parenting, like “the days are long but the years are short.” Then one day, I realized how much parenting wisdom is tucked away in our most common proverbs. Though I doubt some of the advice I gleaned was exactly what the original authors intended.
Here are 10 proverbs, modified to suit the parenting life:

1 | If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

True. Except here’s the thing. If a kid or spouse is doing it and you think you can do it better, ask yourself a simple question: “Do you actually want to do it yourself?”
If no, shut your mouth, carry on and, if necessary, take notes for constructive feedback later.

2 | A watched pot never boils.

Similarly, children can never put on their shoes and socks while you’re watching them. Watching kids struggle to get dressed is like trying to get through a “Lord of the Rings” marathon to impress a first date.
Seriously, walk away. Have a second cup of coffee.

3 | If you can’t beat them, join them.

Every now and then, when your kids are off-the-wall bonkers and you can’t calm them down, just join in. Nobody really wants to be the one sober person at the party.
I can tell you from experience that watching your kids toilet-papering your living room can send you into a tailspin. But doing it with them is oddly satisfying.

4 | No use crying over spilled milk.

My kids spill their milk and other things a lot. It used to upset me a lot. But there are only so many yells in one day, and I decided to save them for more important things.
Our current mantra is, “Well, at least it’s not blood. Now go clean it up.”

5 | Familiarity breeds contempt / Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I’ve lumped these together because they’re opposite sides of the same coin. Any parent who has ever spent several days (okay, hours) trapped in a house with their kids will understand. You start off at 6 a.m. with nothing but love, but by bedtime…pure contempt.
On the flip side, nothing makes me love my kids more than a little break. So when you find yourself climbing up Contempt Hill, work to arrange a get-away fast, even if it’s just a quick run to the drugstore to buy things you don’t need.

6 | Good things come to those who wait.

This can be applied to a million things, but comes in particularly handy for dinner and tantrums. When trying to get my kids to eat something not high on their list of top foods (i.e. anything that’s not pizza), I’ve learned to plop it down and walk away.
Don’t make eye contact, don’t cajole or discuss, just leave it and wait. At some point, they’ll eat it, if the dog doesn’t get to it first.

7 | You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

I love cooking and I love my kids, but initially, I didn’t love the two together. Eggshells got in the batter, flour got on every surface in the kitchen, butter got places butter should never be, and it took roughly two hours to complete a 15-minute recipe.
But, oh how they loved it. Once I embraced the disaster (and learned to have them crack eggs, one at a time, in a separate bowl), I loved it, too.

8 | No man is an island.

I really, really struggle with asking for help. I once cut my fingertip off with a mandolin and then pushed my two-year-old two miles in a stroller, while pregnant, looking for an urgent care that took my insurance.
Once I had two kids, I realized this wasn’t sustainable. Learn to ask for help, because most people don’t mind and you can’t get it done yourself.

9 | Better late than never.

This obviously applies to day-to-day lateness, but it hit home for me in terms of child development. My daughter didn’t walk until 18 months, and my six-year-old son, while showing early promise in engineering, still can’t tell me the difference between the sounds ch and th.
It’s easy to get caught up in intense worry over these things, but the truth is, kids really do develop at different rates. Comparing will make you crazy.

10 | When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Sure, we want to model how to stick it out for our kids, but we also want everyone to survive until they reach adulthood. No one benefits from a crazed parent. Sometimes, it’s best to just walk away.
Give yourself a timeout in your closet, preferably with a drink or snack of your choice.
 

What Story Does Your Closet Tell?

MoMA’s new exhibit, “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” got me thinking. What story does the contents of my thirty year old closet tell?

The Museum of Modern Art has a new exhibit. “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” pieces together 111 articles of clothing from low end to high, from basic to extravagant, from eastern to western culture. Each garment must have had “a strong impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries – and continue to hold currency today.” 111 items to tell the story of the world.

You can walk past a plain white t-shirt and study a row of little black dresses. A pair of flip-flops earns a spot, as does the iconic pearl necklace, a pair of Levis, and a sari. A 1980s red Champion hoodie and the very first teeny tiny string bikini redefine function and style.

This, of course, got me thinking about my own clothes and the story they tell. So I stepped into my closet, a time capsule in itself, and took a look.

All heels higher than two inches sit on a shelf so high I cannot reach them without a step stool. They are covered in a fine layer of dust. These are what I call my “wedding” shoes. They only come down for events requiring RSVPs where three courses of food will be served.

Below the heels are the shirts, arranged by color, because I treat clothes like mood rings. Greens and yellows are good luck charms and charcoals are for dark days. Even as I run my hands over them, under the fluorescent light that is supremely energy efficient but also gives everything an antiseptic look, I see that two-thirds of my wardrobe is moot.

Silks and beaded things and sheer blouses from Anthropologie hang lonely on their padded hangers. Anything that requires a camisole has been abandoned. I spy the pants from before pregnancy, two sizes ago, still hanging in there underneath it all. Their presence is not a goal, but a respectful memorial, perhaps something to pass down to my daughter when fashion circles around again. Will people ever fall back in love with boot-cut? Acid wash came back, so maybe.

None of these speak to my current life as a mom of a five-year-old with special needs and three-year-old twins. Dry-clean only doesn’t hold up well when you’re refereeing Spaghetti-O food fights. And who has time for a camisole? I know other women can do it – the glam mom thing – but I’m lucky if I remember to put on a bra.

If I’m honest, the most highly trafficked area isn’t the hanging items at all, but the two narrow shelves of t-shirts, stretching all the way back to an 80s relic from a trip to Lake Tahoe and all the way forward to last Saturday’s impulse buy at Target that reads: “Sunday is my Funday.” These are my go-tos for the life I lead now as a work-from-home mom. However, the fact that I’m still holding on to all my old work clothes that used to carry me out of the house smelling like rose lotion instead of bacon and sweat says something. The old life is still there, staring at me in that six-by-four-foot space that I also share with my husband and his decades of apparel.

I suppose it means I’m not ready to give up on the pin-tucks and off-the-shoulder numbers that require a strapless bra. I think they’ll come around again when the kids are older and, fingers crossed, more self-sufficient. The heels won’t have to wait for a printed invitation.

Even in this future picture, I’ll still hold on to the 80s tee and the yoga pants and the Chacos and my favorite cowboy boots that are currently competing for space with eight pairs of toddler shoes because nothing is sacred in this house. My closet tells the story of all the living I’ve done. The dry-cleaned things might be shoved into corners, but it’s for a good cause – to make way for all the people tramping in with their own messy lives.

What I can’t makes sense of, though, is how MoMa managed to cover two centuries in 111 pieces when I’ve got that much on my floor just from yesterday.

18 Tattoos That are Perfect for Your Midlife Crisis

It may be the sign of a crisis, but at least it’s not a misrepresentation of the facts.

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A bottle of sunscreen with an SPF number matching your age

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Midlife crisis tattoo low carb skull and crossbones

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A skull and crossbones with “LOW CARB”

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a wilted rose tattoo mid life crisis tattoo

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A rose that needs watering, but who has the time?

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Midlife crisis tattoo self help on knuckles

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The letters S E L F H E L P across the knuckles

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midlife crisis tattoo anchor and demanding kids

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An anchor with a bunch of kids clinging to it and demanding juice

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Midlife crisis tattoo a damaged butterfly
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A butterfly whose wings could use a little work

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Midlife crisis tattoo, mom do you need glasses

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“Mom? Can you see this or do you need your reading glasses?” in a heart

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mid life tattoo tired tiger
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A tiger who’s fallen asleep at 9 p.m.

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Midlife crisis tattoo dandelion devil

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A dandelion labeled “Suburban devil”

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Midlife crisis tattoo graduate school gamble

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A pair of dice with a scroll that says “Graduate School”

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Midlife crisis tattoo pinup girl with cellulite

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A pinup girl with visible cellulite

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A single drop of urine

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Midlife crisis tattoo live for today but save 401k

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“Live for today; but don’t touch your 401k” on a decorative scroll

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Midlife crisis tattoo dream catcher with ambien

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A dreamcatcher with Ambien dangling from the feathers

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Midlife crisis tattoo large font name

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Your spouse’s name in 100-point Garamond font

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Midlife crisis tattoo get up early but skip gym

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An inspirational quote: “Still I rise at 5 a.m., why don’t I go to the gym?”

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Midlife crisis tattoo high taxes great schools

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A house with the words “High Taxes But Great School”

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Midlife crisis tattoo ship in antacids

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A ship in a bottle of antacids

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middle age mothers with multiple tattoos

When I Got Married, I Realized My Mom Missed Her Calling as a Wedding Planner

So what did all this neurotic attention to detail result in? The most magical wedding I could ever have imagined.

No wedding season would be complete without one or two bridal boutiques going belly up, leaving the unfortunate soon-to-be brides not stranded, but potentially naked at the altar. Don’t think “Say Yes to the Dress,” think, “Where the Hell is my dress??” The news stories focus on the shock and horror of these now-frantic young women, their last minute scramble to buy – heaven forbid! – off-the-rack, and, more often than not, their struggle to recoup their hefty deposits from these now bankrupt establishments. These women are in crisis, and a bride unhinged is not a pretty sight.

All weddings pose challenges, sartorial or otherwise, especially for type A-plus overachievers like me, who like things to go according to plan. My plan.

In the months before my wedding, I was studying for the New York State bar exam. Engulfed in torts, contracts, and criminal procedure, I had absolutely no energy left for picking between roses and orchids, lamb chops and prime rib, so I reluctantly ceded all decision making to the only person on the planet who was more of a control freak than I: my mother. I relied on her excellent taste and good judgment. What I forgot to factor in was her perfectionism.

If I’d been paying more attention, I would’ve realized early on that my mother was approaching the wedding planning from a heightened emotional place. The first time we went to look at a venue, there was a wedding ceremony taking place. My mother, my fiancé, and I stood at the back of the hall, assessing the space, the atmosphere, and the seating capacity. When I turned to look at my mother, there were tears streaming down her cheeks, and she had her fist in her mouth, stifling a sob.

“What’s wrong, Ma?” I asked, genuinely alarmed.

“Nothing. It’s just so beautiful.” She wiped away her tears with a big pink hanky clearly brought for just this purpose, and then blew her nose noisily into it. A few of the bridesmaids turned to stare.

“But we don’t know these people!” I countered. This, apparently, was thoroughly beside the point and did not even merit a response.

My mother’s detailed project management knew no bounds. One evening she summoned my future husband and me to her house to help assemble the wedding invitations for mailing. Before we were even over threshold, she held something out to us that looked suspiciously like plastic surgical gloves.

“What are those?” I naively asked.

“They’re plastic surgical gloves,” she answered. “You’re going to wear them while we put together the invitations.” My mother didn’t register one iota of recognition that there was anything out of the ordinary about this pronouncement.

My fiancé tried logic. “You do realize that the mailman will not be wearing gloves,” he said.

“I can only control what I can control,” my mother responded, almost reasonably. Her statement did have a certain ring of truth to it.

The night was far from over.

Unbeknownst to us, in addition to the printed white cards with driving directions that my mother had been given by the synagogue, she had separately printed directions on off-white colored cards, to match the invitations. She failed to inform us that some invitees – her guests who were sophisticated enough to notice such a thing – were to be given the off-white cards, while the others – like our colorblind friends – should be given the white ones. Not even recognizing the issue, we randomly included white or ivory with each envelope we stuffed. When we were about three quarters of the way through our assignment, my mother blanched white (or off-white), and announced that we had made a fatal mistake, necessitating that we start over.

Only his great desire to marry me (and my hand over his mouth) kept the groom from uttering unspeakable words that could never be retracted. Well, maybe one or two escaped.

As the actual wedding day approached, the frenzy only increased. A few days before the event, the caterer invited us to the synagogue to see a sample table set for the occasion, to make sure we were all happy with how it would look.

“Ma,” I asked, plaintively, “can you go without us? Really, I’m happy with whatever makes you happy.” I was trying to avoid another showdown over whatever problem she might perceive.

“Absolutely not! It’s your wedding!” she declared.

We walked in single file behind my mother, expecting the worst, but the table, even without the floral arrangement, looked lovely. My mother circled the perimeter, checking every aspect, until, with one nod, she gave her approval. We thanked the maitre d’ and raced out to the car, my father leading the way in a hasty retreat.

We climbed in, ready to go out for a celebratory dinner at the local diner. My father started the engine and, just as we were about to pull away, my mother gave the order.

Stop the car.” Without another word, she marched back into the synagogue.

When my mother got to the table, she took one deliberate look, and called the maitre d’ over.

“This will not do,” she said, calmly. “The tablecloth is white, and the china is off-white.” We all stood in flabbergasted silence.

The maitre d’ foolishly tried to reason with her. “There will be so many additional things on the table: the flowers, bottles of wine, carafes of water, no one will ever notice that slight –“

My mother, her lips in a tight grimace and her eyes closed, raised one hand in the universal sign for “stop talking before I bite your head off,” and silenced the well-intentioned maitre d’. She shook her head slowly. Then she turned her back on the table and conceded defeat, walking slowly back to the car. White and off-white would have to coexist.

So what did all this neurotic attention to detail result in? The most magical wedding I could ever have imagined.

Try as I might to be more chill, I will likely be just as persnickety when it is my daughter’s turn to get married. One thing is for sure, there will be no wedding-eve lawsuits against a defunct David’s bridal. No, my daughter will wear my white wedding dress that my mother freeze-dried, I mean vacuum-packed, after the wedding and which now waits patiently in my attic. Even if she has her heart set on off-white.

How to Keep Kids Calm During Shots (and a Bonus Reason For Doing so)

How do we possibly overcome what seems like an impossible task to keep our kids happy and calm before they get pricked? Here are some ideas.

It’s that time of year again when I have to keep a huge secret from my kids. Last time I took them they started crying, screaming, and demanding that we go home. No, I’m not talking about going to a haunted mansion for Halloween. I am referring to the dreaded flu shot at the pediatrician’s office.

Children are certainly not in a good mood when they know they have to get a flu shot. This could be more of problem than we ever realized. A new study at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom found a link between our mood when we get a flu shot and the effectiveness of the vaccine.

For years, researchers have been studying a range of factors that can affect our immune response to vaccines, such as sleep, stress, physical activity, and nutrition. This new research specifically looked at patients’ psychological well-being. The study began two weeks before the vaccine was administered when individuals took a blood test to check antibody levels. They were also asked to fill out diaries detailing food and drink intake, physical activity, stress levels, sleep, and mood patterns. For four weeks after the shot, they continued to record in their diary and had additional blood tests on weeks four and 16. Finally, the research team assessed the data and found that positive mood was the only factor that predicted higher flu antibody levels in the blood samples. In fact, the influence of the positive mood was especially strong on the day the participants received the shot.

Given this vital discovery, how do we possibly overcome what seems like an impossible task to keep our kids happy and calm before they get pricked? Here are some ideas.

Mindful breathing

Mindful breathing has been scientifically proven to minimize stress and anxiety. It’s times like these when we need to rely on the breath to get us through the stress. Try an easy tactic with your kids called Heart Hands in which you create a heart shape with your hands. Ask your child to breathe in as you expand your hands to a heart shape. As she breathes out, collapse your hands into two fists side by side. If you don’t have a free hand, then ask her to take a deep breath in and to pretend she is blowing out a candle or blowing bubbles. Repeat this exercise several times.

Music

Music is a magical mood shifter. It helps take our attention from fear to something more pleasing. Sing a song or play one on your phone as your child is about to have the shot. Consider putting together a special playlist for your kids to listen to when they’re stressed so you have it on hand in case they need it. Although slow, quiet classical music is known to have calming effects, it’s really a personal choice to discover which music your children find most soothing. Upbeat party music may actually be a more effective distraction than slow orchestral music.

Soothing imagery

Another option is to bring along some beautiful pictures of nature to look at. Research shows that viewing pictures of nature scenes can reduce stress because our parasympathetic nervous system (which helps us to calm down) is activated. To calm your child down, read a book with calming nature pictures or pull up some photos on your phone or iPad. Keep your children’s focus by asking questions about what they see even while the shot is being administered.

Laughter

Your child will think you’re crazy that you are telling jokes while he’s facing a traumatic event like getting a shot, but don’t let that stop you. The best way to help him is to try to get him to forget where he is – laughing can certainly help with that.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing improves our body and mind and is one of the simplest tools we have for reducing stress and anxiety. You can bring a joke book, tell a silly story, or make silly faces in the doctor’s office.

Texture game

Finally, children can find some comfort using their sense of touch. Sometimes doctor’s offices will provide a stress ball for your child to hold. You can also bring along a cozy stuffed animal or a soft toy like a rabbit’s foot. Another trick is to have her feel different textures one after another using a touch-and-feel book or cards.

My 7-Year-Old's Top Concern After Getting "The Talk"

All that research and preparation goes out the window when you’re face-to-face with your kid about to have “The Talk.”

So my seven-year-old son has been asking that infamous question, “How do babies get in Mommy’s stomach?” Ugh!

My wife and I previously agreed that I would talk to our son about sex and, when the time came around, she would talk to our daughter about it (Thank God). Now the time has come for “The Talk.”

Last night he was telling me about a certain girl at his school that likes him, and he obviously likes her too. He told me how she likes to hug him on the playground. He’s seven years old, dear God it can’t be time for that already! That’s what I was thinking but nonetheless, the time was upon us. What do I do? How do I begin? What questions will he ask? Do I prepare a powerpoint presentation?

I believe I was more nervous than he was, so I took a few minutes to prepare myself. I’d done my research on best practices and tips for having the sex talk with seven-year-old boys. So I felt I was ready for anything. Yeah, right. I actually tried to sneak upstairs to my home studio but he heard me and yelled out, “Are you ready to have that man-to-man talk, Dad?” He obviously wasn’t going to let me back out.

With a deep breath I yelled back, “Yep, come on up to the Man Cave.” He zoomed upstairs and jumped in the chair across from me.

I started by reminding him that the conversation we were about to have was for his ears only, and not to run back and share with his classmates. Once he agreed, we began. I asked the question, “Have you ever heard the word ‘sex’ before.”

He laughed and said, “Dad, only in grown-up movies.”

I asked him what he knew about it and he responded, “Nothing.”

Judging by the smirk on his face, he knew something but he wasn’t going to share it. I proceeded to go over the miracle of life with him from conception to birth. I talked a little about puberty and the changes he’d experience in his body so that he would know that he is normal. I can remember being a little boy and wondering what in the world was going on with my body and why certain things changed and grew for no reason (usually right before the teacher asks you to come to board to write an answer). To bring it all full circle, I brought in this young girl that likes him and hugs him. I didn’t want him to be caught off-guard if he felt a “change” in his body when she came around.

After all the “icky” sex talk and miracle of birth animated video, he had one major concern. To my surprise it wasn’t the fact that a baby comes out of a vagina, nor was it that a man actually puts his penis in that very same vagina. It wasn’t even the fact that his body will start to change. His main concern was sperm coming out of his penis. To him this seemed like a very scary thing. To have little living tadpole-looking things inside him just didn’t sit well in his mind. He wanted to know everything about these little creatures and I calmly explained to him that it doesn’t hurt when they come out and that when he finds the young lady that he wants to spend the rest of his life with, he’ll love it.

Lastly, I asked if he had any further questions. He seemed completely unbothered by load of information I had just dropped on him, while I, on the other hand, was still trying to keep myself from running out the room and hiding in the bathroom until bedtime. Before he headed down the stairs to continue playing, he did drop one last bombshell question on me. On his way out the door, he looked back at me and asked, “So Dad, do you and Mom have sex?”

I was not ready for that. My natural response was to laugh and say, “More than you want to know, buddy.”

Ironically, he laughed too and kept walking. Whew!

Case in point, all that research and preparation goes out the window when you’re face-to-face with your kid about to have “The Talk.” The good thing is that now the door is open, he will hopefully feel comfortable with asking me anything. I’d rather he hear it from me than from a classmate or, worse, learn by experimentation. I’m so glad I don’t have to do this with my daughter. I’m sure that conversation would’ve started out with a stork bringing the baby in a blanket. Ah, the joys of parenting.

Why do I Save Spiders?

I really thought I’d gotten over my fear of spiders, at least to the point where I could remove them from my kids’ rooms when needed. You always know when it’s needed. There is no shriek quite as piercing as a child spotting a spider in his or her room, or (even more terrifying) in the shower.

My newfound confidence went right out the window one morning when I was sitting in bed, working on my laptop, and saw movement along the baseboards out of the corner of my eye. Maybe it’s just a cricket, I thought.

Why would a cricket be any better than a spider? It would be much worse. You can’t catch those things, and they jump! At least spiders don’t jump. Not spiders this big. Dear God . . . That is a spider, right?

I crept out of bed and put on my flip flops, then took one off in case it decided to attack. Then I put it back on, because . . . that thing was huge. I didn’t trust my aim with a tiny flip flop against a behemoth arachnid. Smacking at it might just make it mad.

I ran (as quietly as possible) to the kitchen to get a large plastic cup, heart pounding. What if it wasn’t there when I got back? What then? It could be anywhere! The cats were perched on the dining room table, looking concerned.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “It’s just an enormous spider. You would be helpless against it. Besides, it looks poisonous.”

Back into the bedroom. It was still there. Phew. I moved closer and closer, trying to get the cup into position before it spotted me. How do spider eyes work, anyway? Do they have more than two? Can they see in all directions? I feel like I really should know this before trying to sneak up on one.

No matter. The cup is all I’ve got. I brought it down slowly, slowly. The spider didn’t move. Plunk. Got it! Too late, I realized that the cup wasn’t flat on the floor. It was propped up on the – what do you call that thing at the bottom of the baseboard? A kickplate? My years of binge-watching HGVT failed me. In horror, I watched it scramble under the door of the closet.

I paused outside the closet door, cup in hand, for a very long time. Damn it. What now? I can’t start poking around in the closet, it’s sure to drop on me from whatever it’s attached to. I opened the doors and stared into the closet. Eventually I worked up the nerve to slowly push aside a four-pack of paper towels, expecting it to come charging at me from the other side of the package. Nothing.

I stepped back and noticed the flashlight on an upper shelf. That’s it. I’ll be able to see it better without having to physically enter the closet, and maybe I could paralyze it with the light. I didn’t know if that was possible but I really, really hoped so. It happens with deer, right? Spider in the headlights?

Betty (cat #1) entered the room. She loves chasing lights. I trained the light on the closet floor and she ran right in after it.

“No, Betty! Don’t startle the spider!”

I turned off the light, but before I did, I saw something on the floor, in the open, that looked a lot like the spider. I turned the flashlight on again and kept Betty at bay with my foot. I think that’s the spider! Just sitting there! Why is it doing that? Oh my God, it’s paralyzed by the light! It was like I had discovered fire.

I brought the flashlight closer and closer, testing the light paralysis theory. It didn’t move. Plunk. Just like that, he was trapped. Hooray!

Now, how to get him outside? The old “slide paper under cup” trick worked, but I couldn’t pick it up because the paper was flimsy. One wrong move and he would make a break for it, probably down my arm. I had to slide him across the floor, inch by inch, trying not to jump out of my skin listening to him skittering around in there. Six agonizing feet later, I remembered that there was a rug between me and the screen door. Foiled again.

What would Macgyver do? Duct tape. We have duct tape. Feeling accomplished, I ripped up what little duct tape was left on the roll into small strips, and started folding the paper up the side of the cup and taping it in place. Almost done . . . and then the tape ran out. One section of paper was going to be loose when I picked up the cup.

Sigh.

Holding that section tight against the cup with my hand, I maneuvered the screen door open. Carefully, gingerly, I walked to the very far end of the yard and put the cup down. The spider ran around the inside of the cup, but didn’t find the loose section in the paper. Still stuck in the cup. Dear Lord.

I untaped a few sections and put the cup back down, backing away just far enough to avoid accidental contact. Thankfully, the spider found its way out and disappeared into the grass.

Hopefully it will not find its way back in the house, because I’m all out of duct tape.

The Time My Nephew Washed His Hair With Nair

He calmly explained that the bottle said “hair remover,” which he interpreted to mean having the ability to remove extra dirt from hair.

While waiting for my niece outside a movie theater, my sister entertained herself and her 11-year-old son by walking up and down the aisles of the only store still open in that strip mall late on a Sunday evening. They had already purchased “Wonder Woman” on DVD, and the electronics store was closing.

“Mom! They have bath salt bombs,” My nephew exclaimed, and immediately started begging for the bomb.

The white, baseball-sized salt ball glistened with pink glitter and pressed green leaves.

“I just bought you ‘Wonder Woman,’” she said.

“But this is for the bath and you always say not bathing is not an option,” he argued.

Always delighted to promote solid reasoning and good hygiene, my sister immediately caved, under the condition that he not use it that night as it was already getting late.

The next night, my nephew barely contained his excitement and requested to bathe in the master bathroom tub to maximize the depth of the bomb’s effect. He climbed into the big tub, leaving the door to the bathroom open. My sister and brother-in-law heard him talking to himself and relishing every effervescent moment as they finished up some work on their laptops in bed. (Yes, they bring their work home sometimes. Don’t judge.)

Half-an-hour into the fizz extravaganza, my sister went in to remind him to use soap and shampoo before getting out. When he walked out of the bathroom wrapped in a huge towel, he announced that the shampoo he used – the one in the blue bottle with the pink pump – smelled funny.

My sister is remarkably cool, calm, and collected by nature, which made her training as a high-risk obstetrician a perfect fit for her personality. However, it’s not every day that your kid shampoos with Nair. Panic-stricken, she sprung into action.

If Wonder Woman wants to learn how to fly for her next movie, she should take lessons from my sister, who doesn’t remember her feet touching the ground as she leaped off her bed into the bathroom. She admits to screaming “Oh shit!” and bounding into the shower stall with her clothes on. She scrubbed my nephew’s head with one hand while maneuvering the hand-held nozzle with the other. When she asked him why he didn’t use the regular shampoo, he calmly explained that the bottle said “hair remover,” which he interpreted to mean having the ability to remove extra dirt from hair.

That night, my brother-in-law told my nephew not to worry if a few hairs shed on his pillow and, when they tucked him in, he was wearing his Yoda beanie to “help make the hairs stay in place.” Clearly he was still fuzzy on the process of hair growth and removal.

My sister was a bit traumatized when she cleaned the fizzy residue from the tub and noticed one-inch hairs stuck to the rim, but my nephew’s hair was intact. The hair removal chemicals did not stay on his head long enough to cause bald patches, burning, or any real damage. His hair thinned a bit, but hair grows and lessons are learned. In fact, she and my brother-in-law managed to help my nephew rally to such an extent that he couldn’t wait to go to school to share his war story. He and his friends began composing the sound track to the movie during recess:

Nair, Nair, it’s good for your hair.

The more you use, the more they stare.

If you use too much, you’ll be bald as a pear.

When I heard the story, and after I recovered from my own “what-ifs?” and “holy shits!”, I couldn’t help but marvel at the support and humor my nephew found among his friends. May their bond be as thick as his hair will grow. May we, as adults, take notice and support each other with humor because, sometimes, all you can do is laugh.

Laughter is a great healer, although sometimes it’s not enough. Hair is just hair, and it grows, right? Not always. My sister, tremendously grateful that nothing worse had happened, passed a blessing onto those whose hair is not “just hair.” She donated her long ponytail to charity. Then she exhaled.

Open Letter to Preeclampsia

Sure, I would’ve preferred a nice hotel and massage, but three weeks on an intermittently-inflating bed and five AM blood draws were a close approximation.

Dear Preeclampsia,

You’ve been the friend every woman longs for during the exhausting final months of pregnancy. Your thoughtfulness was extraordinary – you clearly saw my need for rest and relaxation during such a stressful time.

Sure, I would’ve preferred a nice hotel and massage, but three weeks on an intermittently-inflating bed and five AM blood draws were a close approximation. While not having to get out of bed to pee was a nice touch, I have to say that I would’ve liked a chance to look into what other spa services were available. The staff was a little pushy, checking on me every three hours, but they refilled my water as needed.

Please don’t think me ungrateful. I know you were looking out for my best interests, making sure I was taken care of with food delivered moderately warm and unsalted right to my bed. At least, when I was able to eat at all. That was one of your most creative gifts, a nice magnesium cleanse to help me get a head start on losing the baby weight.

You know I support the arts, so you arranged for the IV pump to sing me the song of its people at unpredictable intervals. You went out of your way to help me avoid stretch marks and torn lady bits, and outdid yourself in your commitment to avoiding the woes of the third trimester. No way would I have gotten my body back as quickly if I’d carried the pregnancy to term!

Whereas many pregnancy illnesses are nothing more than an annoyance, you helped me meet my dear son two months earlier than I expected. I was then relieved of the burden that comes with a screaming baby in the middle of the night since you arranged for him to stay right there in the hospital for five weeks.

You thought of everything!

But did you have to try to kill me? It really sends a person mixed signals.

Sincerely,

Rhiannon Giles

This post originally appeared on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Cry-Baby and Other Questionable Baby-Related Expressions

There are a lot of expressions out there about babies. You’ve heard them, you’ve used them, and now it’s high time to see how they stack up.

There are a lot of expressions out there about babies. You’ve heard them, you’ve used them, and now it’s high time to see how they stack up.

1 | I slept like a baby: F

The mother of all shitty baby sayings. When people say they “slept like a baby,” what they clearly mean is that they woke up every hour drenched in sweat, urine, milk vomit, and shit, swaddled in a straightjacket, white noise blasting their eardrums, terrorizing the caring adults and pets nearby. Oh, and they’re shrieking hysterically. There may be head-banging. That’s what babies sleep like.

2 | Cry-baby: D

This one’s total bullshit too. Calling someone a cry-baby is sort of like blaming them for doing what’s expected, like calling someone a bricklayer while they’re just out there in the hot sun layin’ bricks. Or perhaps, more analogously, it’s like calling your pup a bark-dog. Pretty shitty little ditty, as Grandma used to say.

3 | Like taking candy from a baby: D

So 1) maybe don’t give your baby candy to be taken away in the first place, or at least not hard candy, 2) babies are strong as fuck and won’t let you just grab their lolly without putting up a serious fight about it, and 3) the only reason this isn’t a straight-up F is that the song that goes, “Come on, let’s fall in love, it’s easy/like taking candy from a baby” is pretty catchy even though both parts of the premise are wrong.

4 | To be left holding the baby: B+

Yeah, that’s hard. Babies are hard. My baby is hard. No offense meant, little guy, it’s just that facts are facts. This one gets demerits because, well, it’s like 25 percent insulting to babies and guardians alike. Babies are also great, and holding them is cuddly and fun much (some?) of the time.

5 | Smooth as a baby’s butt: A+

This is the real deal, people. We got a bona fide baby-related expression that has legs! Or should I say butts? Anyway, my baby’s little booty is absolutely the softest thing there is. It makes feathers and soapstone and chamois feel like the coarsest grade of sandpaper topped with rusty nails and shards of glass. My first baby’s butt was similar. The Institute for Baby Aphorisms finally got one right.

6 | Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: A-

Good advice, both literally and pithily, slight demerit for being super obvious. I really almost did throw mine out once, a couple of months ago, as I was getting ready to toss the soapy water into the shower. My feeling is that he probably would have bounced around the stall like a racquetball, but I’m not going to test that out. Yet.

7 | Wet the baby’s head: A++

I guess this one is from Australia mainly. It’s when you liquor up to celebrate the birth of your child. Combines babies and alcohol, ergo A++ WOULD SAY EXPRESSION AGAIN.

8 | Baby, it’s cold outside: C

Not about babies. Still, good idea to let your baby know when it’s cold outside so he can be prepared mentally.