I’m in a Glass Case of Emotion

glass case of emotion
He’s a sympathetic cryer.

There’s a reason why you all haven’t heard from me in a while. I’ve been trapped in a glass case of emotion. It’s called real estate hell. While the experience has been nothing short of dramatic for me and Alex, blogging about it would be a terrible combination of super completely boring and mad whiny. I can sum it up thusly:

Clean the house, sign some paperwork, email documents, get hopes up, get hopes dashed, clean the house again, sign some more paperwork, email additional documents, chew out dickhead appraiser who makes snide remarks about your house before he even sees it, clean the house, sign 50 more documents, keep your four-year-old from wrecking the house, do some financial gymnastics, and STILL we are only about halfway through this.*

I still have that dream house in Gilroy in my sights. We are only about 1,000 documents (and way more thousands of dollars) away from that dream becoming a reality. But that’s a hell of a lot closer than the last time you heard from me, when it was sort of a laughable distant fantasy.

The problem is, I’ve already Property Brothersed the shit of of this house in my mind. I’m imagining walking through the door to a set of unfathomably tall Canadian twins lighting candles on my brand-new quartz countertop kitchen island, and fluffing 30 more pillows than are necessary for one couch. Tears come to my eyes and I’m speechless, even though I’ve been a demanding bitch for the entire reno project. The whole thing takes 30 minutes, and then I’m HOME.

HGTV has romanticized the home-buying (and selling) process so much, that when you’re in the nightmarish reality, you end up in, well, this state of mind:

If this whole thing works out, we will finally move into our new house (unrenovated) on May 5. That’s so so far away. That’s another month of losing my damn mind. I will have to find SOMETHING else to think about, or I’m going to lose the three people who read my blog.

What are all your feelings about cats? I could easily turn this into a cat blog.

*Disclaimer: My realtor is nothing short of a rock star. She’s amazing, she’s a bulldog, and she will get you the deal no matter what it takes. None of the dramatic stuff is any of her fault, and if anyone in the Bay Area or Monterey Peninsula is looking for a realtor, I cannot recommend her enough!

Buying and Selling: An Emotional Roller Coaster

I’ve always hated roller coasters. The slow grinding of the gears as they inch their way up a steep incline. The rust-scented steel bar across your lap that either cuts off your circulation or feels loose enough that you might fall out. The sick drop in your gut as you come over the crest and plummet to your death. (Okay, not your death, but my heart still doesn’t believe I’ll actually live while I’m going through it.)

So a series of emotional highs and lows—an emotional roller coaster, if you will—while for some people might be exhilarating, for me feels like a torture device. And that’s what selling your home and buying a new one in California feels like.

“I just feel like I’m on some kind of emotional…ride of some sort.”

Our house went on the market on Friday morning. We had an open house on Saturday and Sunday. By Monday we had three offers, all of them over asking price. Monday evening we accepted an offer on our house. It was that fast. The plan was to turn around and make an offer on the house we really, really wanted in Gilroy today (Tuesday). The pace is frightening, and though we feel in our hearts we’re doing the right thing, we can’t help but feel mixed emotions, and, naturally, a whole lot of stress.

Check out our purdy house. This baby sells itself!
Check out our purdy house. This baby sells itself!

Stress does amazing things to people. My back is suddenly enflamed. I’ve been up since 2:30am. I’ve been so nervous all day that I can’t stop farting. And then I can’t stop talking about the need to fart. And now I’m fucking blogging about my farting, so it’s all out in the open. I fart when I’m nervous. If I’m in a big board meeting someday and need to answer to some shareholders, I better put a plug in my ass.

Stress also makes you write incredibly long metaphors about tired clichés.

The day starts on a really sweet note. We sign paperwork on a simple counter offer on the sale of our house to a fireman (!) who is really excited to get the property. That makes us feel pretty amazing—to not only get the dollar amount we are looking for, but also know that we’re turning our home over to good hands. We also know that we’re in good position to negotiate for the new house that we desire, as there had been no offers on the property as of Monday evening. I turn to Alex and say, “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Nothing is ever easy for us.” He admonishes me for “jinxing it.” Now I’m worried I jinxed it, but I brush it off. All the good feelings! We’re moving!

Tuesday, mid-morning. Phone rings. It’s my realtor, and she sounds like she’s delivering crappy news. You know, like how Drew from Property Brothers heaves this phony, sad-faced sigh and says, “So…I have some news for you guys,” and the couple pretends they don’t already know that he landed them the deal? She has that tone, except she legit has bad news. An offer came in this morning on the house we wanted in Gilroy. So now it’s a multiple bid situation, and all bets are off.

Guess who’s plummeting down the first steep drop of one of those 85-degree inclines at Six Flags?

So realtor knows we at least have to come in at asking price, which is also a figuratively steep figure. I’m about to lose my breakfast (coffee), but it’s going to be okay. We can make a strong offer and still get this.

Then the lender emails and contradicts earlier conversations, saying we’re going to need to make a bigger downpayment than we had planned. “Do you have a family member who can loan you $35,000?” she asks. Oh, sure. My family has 35k just sitting around, waiting to be borrowed. And I can totally pay that back in five years on top of a big ole mortgage. No problem.

I haven’t even climbed up another incline, and I’m plunging again.

But after about 18 frantic calls to my realtor, who talks me down from the ledge, and, frankly, after a couple glasses of champagne at a birthday celebration for my company’s CEO, I am feeling less upset and more like, “Hey, at least I get hipster cred if I become homeless!” Things are slowing down a bit, I’m catching my breath, but I brace for the next jolt.

It comes just as I get home from work. Although my realtor calls with the good news that we are officially in contract on the sale of our home, and that we even have two back-up offers, my lender beeps in and delivers a shock: no matter which way she crunches the numbers, we just won’t qualify for a loan as large as the one we’re looking to offer on this new home. This is another direct contradiction from an earlier pre-approval, so I’ve moved into full-blown panic attack. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? The coaster whips me around in a double loop-dee-loop and my face has taken on a red splotchy color.

Thankfully, the lender pulls a Drew by turning the whole situation around. A simple mistake of double charging one of our car payments each month had basically screwed up all the numbers (and it’s an understandable mistake—we just started a new lease). She was able to get us the qualification, work some magic with the numbers, and help us to lower the monthly mortgage payment. All miscommunications forgiven! Oh happy day! We can still get this place AND afford to live!

The day ends in much the same way as it began, but perhaps in a healthier frame of mind. We know we have done all we can to get the house that we really want without wringing ourselves out like a washcloth. We know there’s a good chance we don’t get this house. But now we also know that’s it’s going to be okay, no matter what happens. With very few exceptions, we all get off the ride safely. We might be a little shaken up (and we may need to run to the nearest trash can to puke out our cotton candy), but we’re going to be okay.

We’re Moving

It’s official. As of this Thursday afternoon, my first home will be on the market. A photographer is coming in to take snapshots for the listing, fliers are going out, and the open house is happening this weekend.

If I think about it too hard, I feel like throwing up. But I know this is the right move for our family.

baby play area
bringing up baby on travertine tile

Alex and I didn’t start our lives together in this house, but we did create our family here. When Lucas came home from the hospital, we brought him back to our place in Salinas. This is where he learned to crawl, where he took his first steps, where we spent countless sleepless nights. Where we celebrated a Red Sox World Series win and an Obama re-election. Where we’ve hosted Christmas parties and birthday parties and LAN parties. Where we’ve invested money and time and heart into changing this little house into a home.

We always knew we weren’t going to stay long. This was a lovely starter home in a lovely neighborhood. But it’s in a terrible school district, and all the private schools in Salinas are Catholic, which would make school events pretty awkward for Lucas’ atheist mom. Plus there are far too many nights where I’m falling asleep to the sounds of sirens instead of silence.

At the start of our marriage, Alex and I moved to Gilroy so I could be closer to the Bay Area in order to commute to Stanford. The added bonus was being closer to Alex’s brother Ozzy and his then-girlfriend, now-wife Crystal. We loved living in the garlic capital of the world, and when we were ready to buy our first house, we fully intended on staying there (even though I had finished with my program at Stanford and was working in Monterey).

We searched and searched for months and made offers on at least seven different houses. Each time we were outbid by investors with cash offers or families with bigger budgets. We finally just gave up at one point (which is why we ended up in Salinas). But now, with kindergarten around the corner for Lucas, we’ve got our eye on a couple great school districts in the South Bay.

But the most important thing, the thing that sealed the deal for me, was the thought of being closer to family.

Ozzy and Crystal are beckoning us back—and Alex’s sister Monica, her husband Braulio, and their amazing daughter Alessandra are moving to Gilroy as well. We had been waffling on selling for a while, always finding a reason not to budge. But then we saw this great house in Gilroy and everything fell into place. We fell in love (which is dangerous, because we can’t even make an offer until we sell our own house). I mean…just look at it:

dream house

With family nearby, and a great property as a prospect, moving up to Gilroy or Morgan Hill (15 minutes from Gilroy) just makes sense. Sense that is scaring the bejesus out of me.

Things that petrify me about this move:

1. I hate moving.
2. Trying to keep a house “show ready” with a 4-year-old is going to be the most difficult thing I’ve done since giving birth.
3. Change is scary.
4. What if no one wants to pay what we think this house is worth?
5. What if it takes forever to sell it?
6. What if it takes NO TIME to sell it and then someone else sweeps up the property we want?
7. What if we can’t find another house in time?
8. I’ll have to possible double my commute WITH LUCAS if we move to Morgan Hill. (Temporary…we’ll find him a new school…but still crappy.)
9. What if I totally regret leaving this house?
10. I can’t think of another good one, but 10 is a nice round number.

One of my big goals for 2015 was to move. Once upon a time, I said that New Years Resolutions don’t work unless you actually resolve to do them. (Which is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said on record, by the way, and I will continue to make fun of myself for saying it for years to come.) I’m going to take this one step farther (and possibly make fun of myself in the future for having said this, too): A resolution means nothing until you actually go through with it.

So here we go…

My Toddler Is Now a Kid and My Whole World Has Changed

Do you know how many times I’ve said, “No one told me this was going to happen” in my child’s short life? When breastfeeding didn’t happen naturally, I said, “No one said it was going to be this hard!” (They did.)

When I brought my kid home from the hospital and he made noises like a congested, dying bulldog, I freaked out believing he was surely choking on his own tongue. Why didn’t anyone warn me that newborns DO THAT? (I’m sure I read it somewhere on Baby Center.)

When Lucas projectile pooped onto my husband’s mouth I thought, “Dear God, I knew we were going to have to deal with poop, but no one said it’d be THIS BAD! (They most certainly did.)

And when my primal, biological love turned into being IN love, I noted that people said you loved your new baby more than anyone in your life, but before I had Lucas, I thought that was just bullshit. How could you love someone you didn’t really know? (You can, and you do, and you would gladly give up your life for him within the first few seconds of meeting him.)

All of those doubts and questions came within the first few weeks of my child’s life, but they’ve continued at every transition. Each new behavior, I find myself saying, “No one told me!”even though I’m almost positive they did in some way, but I probably dismissed it. So with that being said…

No one told me there’d be such a difference between the ages of three and four! But my toddler—my sweet, frustrating, funny, precocious toddler—is now a kid. And that small change is just the first domino in a snaking line of transitions that are now piling up before my very eyes.

birthday party inviteOver the last month, we will have attended four birthday parties that are not just a baby cousin’s family party where we hang out, eat some pizza, and let the child dunk his head in some frosting. These were EVENTS, with activities and party favors and food spreads and special cakes and gifts that you open after everyone goes home. This was the first year that we had a friend party for Lucas, and it was beyond stressful. When I saw what a great time he was having, though, I was happy to go through it. But sheesh! This is a whole new ballgame.

Speaking of ballgame, we’ve signed the little tyke up for T-ball. They’ve got practice twice a week (and this is before they even start having games), and we had to buy uniforms, and there are fundraisers to participate in, and team BBQs, and weekly emails with SO MUCH INFORMATION and I’m like, wow…it’s T-ball. I didn’t think it’d be this intense.

Even Lucas looked back at us during his first practice a little bewildered like…what is happening right now? Of course, I don’t blame him. He is on a team with some kids who have to be 12 years old and they’re already launching the ball clear across the field. To go fetch it, they run past wandering, drugged-out homeless people. (Gotta love Salinas.) This makes me kind of glad Lucas can’t toss the ball more than a few feet.

T-ball practice
That’s my little man on the right all…no way you guys are my age.

Somehow these changes in my son’s life seem to be rolling over into changes in my and Alex’s lives as well. We are thinking about kindergarten and school districts, and this means we’re going to sell our house soon and buy a new home in a new area, which is going to be a HUGE transition for everyone. New house, new commute, possibly a new pre-school (which breaks my heart a little). Alex is looking into certifications to up the ante in his career, and I’m doing the same by taking on a ton of consulting and contract work.

All of a sudden, we’re in the circus.

Kia crossverI never saw myself as participating in the suburban parenting hysteria. The schlepping, the over-scheduling, the soccer (T-ball) mom, the mini-van. But I’m getting to work earlier so I can leave earlier so I can get Lucas to practice and then after he goes to bed, I’m hopping on my computer and doing more work. And I’m thinking about signing him up for soccer in the summer, because he loves playing in the park and he’s a natural. And the lease was up on my Kia, and if I’m not mistaken, my new car looks more like a minivan than a crossover, and I was thrilled with the extra space. Old me is giving new me the crazy eyes, but new me gets it now.

These changes, they’re going to come whether I’m ready for them or not. Whether people warned me about them or not. Whether I swore I wouldn’t be like that or not. If my son, my no-longer-toddler, wants to participate, then I’ll do everything in my power to get him to that party and bring him to those practices and get him into the good school district.

What that means is more intensity in every aspect of our lives. We need to step up in our careers to afford these opportunities. We need to sacrifice more time to be there for our son for his games or recitals or art shows or whatever it is he chooses to participate in. (We also need to draw the line when it becomes too much. We are, after all, only human.) But it’s a lot of adjusting in a relatively short period of time.

And no one told me it was going to get harder instead of easier….

(Okay, they totally did, but I just didn’t believe it.)

Dancing With My Son

Ever since my four-year-old son laid eyes on the Chandelier video, he’s been improv dancing in our living room trying to recreate the steps. He stands up on the couch, throws his hands out wide, and launches backwards. He runs over to the curtains and gathers them in his arms. He’s imitating the choreography performed by the talented Maddie Ziegler, plus adding a few extra kicks and rolls on the ground for good measure.

Watching him move around the room with total abandon, looking at the joy in his eyes, I know exactly how he feels. Maybe he’s just being a kid dancing around, as kids do. Or maybe he’s got the fire and just HAS to move—which is how I feel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week STILL, even though my body won’t let me.

Sometimes I can’t help myself and I get up off the couch to join him. We hold hands and twirl around in a circle. I reach my arms up to the ceiling and out to him, and he instinctually follows, running into my arms or circling around my legs making movements of his own. We take each others cues, leading and following, gently guiding one another through the song. Sometimes we collapse into fits of laughter. Sometimes we end the dance emotionally, clinging to one another as if we’ll never experience this moment again.

And that’s my big fear. Because it’s been years since I’ve experienced the joy of dance at my peak, when my body would listen to my mind’s commands, when it gave way to the downbeat, when I felt comfortable enough to not only follow steps with precise accuracy but also add my own style, to flow through the movements, extend them out to the last drop of the last note.

Now I hear a powerful song and I’m practically crawling out of my skin to dance to it the way I imagine, the way I once could. Sometimes I try, but I inevitably end up laying down on the ground, stretching, stretching, breathing through the pain. I want to scream, “It’s not fair!” but how can I when I was blessed with the ability to dance in the first place? When so many people never experience that joy at all? Aren’t I lucky to have even had those moments?

When I was 16 years old, I was preparing to dance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for the Jazz Dance World Congress. I was more nervous than I’d ever been at any dance competition—and this was just a performance. But the ornate ceiling and the rows and rows of red velour seats stretched out before me, and I felt my heart beating in my eardrums. As the music started and the lights came up, I rose up out of my body and moved. There were nine other dancers on stage, but we danced as one, and as we flew across the stage, we floated with a power that made everything easy. The effort was gone and only the dancing remained. That was the purest joy I’ve ever felt in my life.

Until my son came into this world.lucas

Now I watch him dance and part of me wants to warn him: “It’ll break your heart, Lucas.” But as I see him spin and throw his head back and giggle, I think to myself, “I can’t take that away from him, if that’s what he wants.” (Who knows what he wants, he’s only four. But I can’t discount the possibility.) So for now, I dance with him. I dance until the pain becomes too much and he yanks at my arm and asks me to dance some more. I lay down on the ground to stretch, smile up at him, and say:

“I’m sorry, Lucas. Mama can’t dance anymore. It’s your turn.”

I’m Not Impressed By Your Giant Snowstorm

You got 34 inches of snow, you say? You can’t get out of your slider door? You spent two days holed up with family watching movies and drinking hot cocoa and sliding down the hills in your backyard? That’s pretty magical.

not impressed

Not impressed.

You know what’s not magical? Getting up and shoveling three feet of snow out of your driveway so you can inch your way down treacherous, mushy roads to arrive at work with mud-soaked pants and a beaten-down spirit. Having your car stolen out of your driveway while you leave it warming up because it’s so cold outside that your fingers might freeze to the steering wheel. Watching snow swiftly morph from pure white powder to dirty, muck-caked ice.

Sitting through, like, 15 more storms before you can even begin to think about spring.

winter in new england
nope nope nope

I know this is pretty dickish, because I can just imagine all my friends and family in Massachusetts and New York giving me a collective middle finger right now. (A couple of them might even smack me upside the head…and do you blame them?) I suppose I shouldn’t try and suck what little joy you might find in a historic snow storm that’s dumped a toddler-sized load in your backyard. But dude…winter sucks. Fun to visit. Fun to play in. Not fun to live in.

So I give you your school days off and your toboggans and your tunnels out of your back door. I commend you for shoveling and continuing to shovel and then when you thought you couldn’t shovel anymore, shoveling once again. I tip my hat to your ice scrapers stored in your cars and your thermal layers. I smile at your kids bundled up like Stay Puffed Marshmallows, their cheeks pink and their eyes glassy.

But I’m just not impressed by your “weather” or your “Blizzard-gate” or whatever the hell your meteorologists were shouting about while Juno’s snowflakes became imbedded in their microphones. I’ll be over here chuckling when my fellow Californians warn each other about getting home safe when it sprinkles rain. And I’ll be very, very grateful I missed out on that magical mess.

I’m 34 Years Old and Went Shopping at Hot Topic

Go ahead, judge me. I certainly did. I walked by the store in our local lame-ass mall this Saturday evening, and I saw me a Dr. Who Tardis dress hanging in the store window. The very same Tardis dress I saw on my 15-year-old cousin this summer and coveted, asking all my relatives, “Would it be weird if I bought that same dress? It’d be weird, right?” The smell of patchuli and the sounds of pseudo metal wafted out of Hot Topic. I walked on by because, well, I’m 34, and I shouldn’t be shopping at Hot Topic.

I was in the mall with my nearly 4-year-old son who was holding a Mickey Mouse balloon, and I was wearing a sensible mom sweater and three-season-old boots. I walked through JCPenney and Macy’s and I glanced over my shoulder at Forever 21 (because that’s MUCH more age-appropriate than Hot Topic), but I didn’t feel like buying anything…except that Tardis dress. Finally, when the family was getting ready to leave, I broke down and ran all the way back through the mall to Hot Topic. Then, timidly, I stepped a toe inside, dragging Lucas and his balloon with me.

Euphoria ensued. There was an entire wall full of Dr. Who paraphernalia, and I wanted it all. I picked out a few items, stared wistfully at glass cases full of body piercings and patches, and stood in line for the dressing room next to some dude with huge holes in his droopy, stretched-out ear lobes. I was grinning ear-to-ear.

At checkout, two salespeople had lanyards around their necks, which were covered in small attitude-infused buttons. Because I couldn’t help myself, I smirked and remarked to the kids, “Did you get to pick out all your own buttons? Or did you have put on a required amount of flair?” The boy laughed, but I wasn’t sure he was old enough to get my Office Space reference. My debit card was declined because karma.

Tardis dressAfter an annoyingly and unnecessarily long conversation with Bank of America, I walked out of the store with three items of Dr. Who swag, including that glorious Tardis dress. And you know what? I felt great. I wore my Tardis dress today and my Dr. Who knee socks, and I got thumbs up from all the undercover Whovians at Lucas’ school and at work.

Am I dressed like a 15-year-old? Yup. Do I feel inappropriate? A little. Do I, regardless of the inappropriateness, love love love what I’m wearing? You better believe it! Do I have any more fucks to give about being 34 and shopping at Hot Topic? Nope!

How to Rebel Against New Year’s Resolutions: Eat Like a Champion

I entered into this New Year just like everyone else: fresh with optimism, full of heady ideas about eating healthy and making some smart choices in my life.

That lasted all of one day.

Remember last year when I was all “I resolve to make things different!” and then I had the worst year of my life? This year, I’m taking the opposite approach. I’m just going to keep doing whatever it is I’ve been doing—and that includes stuffing my face as though I’ll never see another morsel of food again.

I devoured this in two sittings.
I devoured this in two sittings.

I’m not quite sure where this is coming from. Part of it may be in rebellion, since three-quarters of my office are on this detox/whole foods kick and they’ve lost a collective umpteen-thousand pounds. I’m happy for them, and they seem happy too, but I have no energy/desire to join them. I’d rather be enjoying my meatballs and hot dogs and pizza and cheese (even though I recently discovered I’m lactose intolerant. Seriously.)

Maybe it’s just that I’ve come upon a rather difficult time of the year, emotionally. Today marks the one-year anniversary of my cousin’s death. (Boy this post just took a sudden emo turn.) I’m not going to dwell on that here. But I don’t think the late-night trips to the fridge are happening in a vacuum. And that’s all I have to say about that.

I’ve been making half-hearted attempts to reel in the eating. I’ll pack myself a really healthy salad for lunch, and it will be delicious, and I will enjoy it. But 30 minutes later, I’m snacking on chicken puffs in the kitchen and contemplating whether to run out and grab something for second lunch.

Late nights are the worst, though. Once again, I’ll eat a decently healthy dinner with fair portions that leave me satisfied but not stuffed. But once 10pm rolls around, all bets are off. I’ve cracked into the leftovers like a burglar cracking a safe, waiting until Alex goes upstairs so I can shamelessly stuff my face with meats and cheeses and sauces and crackers and chocolate. Each time I think, “Okay, that’s enough. This is getting gross.” Then a minute later, I hop up off the couch and go grab “just one more thing” until I’m full to the point of discomfort and regret.

And yet…

There’s something freeing about not really giving a crap. I see everyone around me scrambling to be healthy and I’m all “see you on the other side!” Because I know come February, they’ll start sneaking their snacks, just one cheat here, another cheat there. And by March they’ll be in full-blown munchie mode and I’ll be all “Welcome to the club! Was it worth it?”

So for lunch today, I’m foregoing all pretenses and going to get myself a delicious tri-tip sandwich from Mundos. You really only live once. And I’m going to live my life enjoying all the delicious food this world has to offer.

…that is, until my pants stop fitting. Which may be sometime next week.

The Single Stupidest Argument I’ve Ever Had With My Mother

My mom and I have butt heads many times over the last thirty-grumble-grumble years. Many, many times. A good many of them were emo-teenage arguments, like “You don’t understand me!” or “My life is so hard!” or “Why won’t you let me close the door to my bedroom?” Many more were about my wedding. (“I really don’t want to invite your sister’s cousin’s daughter who knows your hairdresser, who you also invited.”) But the thing we’ve argued about the most is how to parent my son.

I’m just going to rewind that back. How to parent MY son.

Yes, my mom has the wisdom of many more years of motherhood than I do, which is why I often listen to her advice. I know she’s a fantastic mother and a wonderful grandmother—that cannot be argued. What can be argued is how I choose to feed, bath, dress, educate, and entertain my child. And mom has something to say about all of them. She wouldn’t be an Italian Mother if she didn’t.

This particular argument started when I (mistakenly) called my mom to vent about what a pain in the ass Lucas had been that day. It was then that my mom offered her patented “he needs more stimulation” formula, which usually involves me spending lots of money of crap he never uses.

child at christmas
Looks pretty stimulating to me.

Let’s take a moment to unpack that word: STIMULATION. The word stimulate means to make more active, to cause something to develop, or to make a person excited about something. Here are things that should be stimulated: hair growth, a passion for learning, the economy, nipples. Here’s what my son, the most energetic, non-stop-party person in the universe doesn’t need: stimulation. Love, affection, attention, fun, support, guidance, yes. Stimulation, no. If I stimulated that child any more than he is already naturally stimulated, then he’d make a double espresso with a sprinkle of crack look like warm milk.

So when I called my mom to say “Lucas was driving us bonkers today,” and she said, “He needs more stimulation,” you can bet that it pinched a mommy nerve. Here’s how it went down.

Mom: He’s just bored. He needs more stimulation.

Me: We took him for a walk around the neighborhood, then to the park, the he rode his bike up and down the street, then he played basketball, and we ended the night by watching two movies!

Mom: Well, he’s probably sick of doing those things. He needs more stimulation.

Me: Wha? Like what?

Mom: Like some new toys. I’m sure he’s sick of his old ones.

Me: We just had Christmas!

Mom: But he needs a train set. Every little boy needs a train set. I’m going to buy it for him for his birthday.

Me: I…no he doesn’t NEED a train set! We have no place to put it!

Mom: Well, I’m just saying. He’s bored.

Christmas LEGOS. Very stimulating.
Christmas LEGOS. Very stimulating.

I’m not lying when I say we discussed this “needs more toys” and “train set” issue for 30 minutes, starting off at regular Italian volume (loud) and ending with the two of us yelling at the top of our lungs at each other while my dad tried to mediate and my husband was in the background shouting, “And tell her we already bought him a train and he doesn’t play with it!” It was a total melee. Over a fucking train set.

Basketball hoop: ultimate stimulation.
Basketball hoop: ultimate stimulation.

I’m sure a good part of it was me being frazzled at my son’s behavior and being couped up in the house for the last week and a half while my office was closed. I was exhausted and cranky and craving my old routine. On top of which, I had made every effort to make my child’s Christmas magical, but somehow, Italian Mother Guilt penetrated all of that. My mom saying “Lucas needs a train set” became “You’re not a good mother.”

Would my mom ever say those words to me? No. In fact, she has even told me I’m doing a good job. (GASP!) But the curse of Italian Mother Guilt is that it doesn’t matter what you did or what your mom said before. Every argument is seasoned with “You’re not a good mother” in the same way we season our salad dressing with oregano. I bet her mother did it to her, and her mother did it to her mother before her. Every Italian mother of the past was doing it right, and every Italian mother of the present is totally fucking it up.

I’m sure I’ll guilt my son about other things, like “When are ya gonna get a job and move out of here?” But the guilt passed from Italian mother to daughter is as thick as lasagna.

In a way I’m sad to miss out on this important tradition of proving my superiority in all things motherly. But mostly I just want it to be known that Lucas doesn’t really need a train set. He’s already getting the best gift my parents could give him: they’ll be here to celebrate his birthday.

Toddler Bedtime is the Absolute Worst

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Of course you have, but I don’t care because this is my blog and I do what I want.

nosleepyDoes that sound like the voice of someone who had a nice, peaceful evening last night? No. No, it does not. Instead, it is the voice of a mom who has been routinely tortured by her adorably geared up three-year-old whose excitement over Christmas has reached such a fever pitch that he can’t calm himself down to go the F*** to sleep.

I know that parental whining about toddler bedtime is about as tired as I am at this very moment, but mostly it’s because we are trying to wrap our heads around why, why, why for the love of God, why is this happening and why does it keep happening, and why don’t we have that kid from Monsters, Inc. who giggles a little and then passes out so quickly you think she might have narcolepsy?

My son’s skills at evading bedtime are about as calculated and manipulative as an evil genius. We have tried to adapt, initiating different bedtime routines to throw him off the scent, but little by little, minute by minute, he stretches and negotiates until finally you realize you’re back in the same pattern of laying next to him trying to play dead while he whispers to himself in the language of Mordor and then crawls over your back to ask: “What you doin’, Mama?”

Me: Nothing, go to sleep.

Lucas: I want some water.

Me: You just had water. You had two glasses of water. All done water.

Lucas: No because I need it.

Me: Go to sleep.

Lucas: shbash shash bash sasha bah hardlach

Me: …. (pretending to play dead again)

Lucas: I need to go pee-pees.

Me: ……

Lucas: Mama. Mama. Maaaaaamaaaaaaa.

Me: ………..

Lucas tosses and turns for about five minutes and is relatively quiet. I hear him chewing on the edge of his pillowcase, but he hasn’t peeped up. I become hopeful that maybe he’ll doze off soon. I open one eye like Popeye to see if he’s finally knocked out.

He’s a millionth of a millimeter away from my face, just staring at me.

Lucas: Hi, Mama!

Me: LUCAS! Go. To. Sleep!

This pattern continues, by the way, for two hours and 20 minutes. Now do you wonder why I, and the parents of millions of toddlers, are losing our minds?

I want to know how our parents did it. Because they make it sound like they just left us in our rooms and, maybe we didn’t fall asleep right away, but we played to ourselves or babbled and eventually passed out on our own. Maybe a few nights we had nightmares and crawled into our parents’ bed. But did mom lay next to me for hours every night? I don’t think so. How can I be that mom?

Did our parents go through this and just keep their mouths shut? Or have toddlers somehow morphed into the dominant minds of our time, bending our weak Gen X/Millennial brains to do their bidding so that one day they can rule us all and in the darkness, bind us? Toddlers are to parents what North Korean hackers are to Sony. They get us by invoking the words “I’m scared” or “Don’t go, Mama” or “I need Mama,” and we give in, even though we swore we wouldn’t let the terrorists win.

Maybe we WERE like this when we were little, but our parents just forgot. They wiped it from their brains so as not to experience symptoms of PTSD. Either way, I know that— unlike the Balrog in the Mines of Moria—this too shall pass.