The New Thirty (But Even Better)

So. I’m 40 now.

As I’ve said before, I like celebrating my birthday. While I know that some people would rather ignore that date on the calendar, I’m solidly in the IT’S MY BIRTHDAY SO EVERYBODY CELEBRATE camp.

There had, of course, been our trip to Mexico this summer. I also wanted to get away with Nick so that we could commemorate the occasion, just the two of us… And so, two weeks ago, we headed to Florida for one glorious day at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

I’m basically still full, which doesn’t bode so well for Thanksgiving.
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Yep. I bought this ridiculous, ridiculously overpriced photo. It was worth it.

Given that I’d already gilded my lily not once but twice, I decided that I didn’t really want to do anything major on my actual birthday (this past Sunday). One of my BFFs, Sarah, and I are So You Think You Can Dance devotees; we always try to see the tour together. As luck would have it, the SYTYCD tour was coming to Buffalo on Friday night, meaning Sarah could fly up, we could catch the show, and then spend my birfday weekend in Rochester.

Ella, Annie, and I met Sarah and her son, J, at the airport, took in the show (awesome!), then drove back home — where Nick and the rest of Sarah’s family (her husband and son, Z) were waiting. We spent the next 36 hours hanging out, throwing a freakin’ awesome party for Ella (more on that later), laughing, opening the 40 presents Sarah had wrapped for me (omg), eating like foraging animals, and generally reveling in one another’s company.

After Sarah and Co. left on Sunday afternoon, the girls began begging me to open my other birthday gifts. While Nick and I sorted through everything (we’d had souvenirs and Christmas gifts sent back from Epcot, so there were a whole bunch of boxes), I noticed that there was nothing from my dad and stepmom, Meg.

This seemed really bizarre — my own dad hadn’t recognized my birthday, not even with a trinket? I tried to reason with myself that it didn’t matter – he and Meg had mailed a card and we’d FaceTimed that morning. I didn’t need things. It was just a birthday. No big deal.

HOLD THE PHONE THOUGH. ‘Cause it was a big deal. Not the presents, but the very idea that they’d essentially treated my FORTIETH(!!) BIRTHDAY like any other day was really starting to bum me out. Nick and I made our way back upstairs, boxes (but none from my very own father, thank you very much) in hand, and turned the corner to where the girls were waiting for us in the living room…

Except it wasn’t just the girls.
Seated between them on the couch were my dad and Meg.

They’d flown up from Long Island to surprise me.
Because 40? 40 is important.

I almost had a heart attack.

As I’ve watched my fellow 1975ers hit this milestone, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what turning forty means and why it mattered so much to me. I distinctly remember my parents turning 40. For years, my childhood home held a framed copy of the invitation announcing my dad’s big day: “Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s 40!” There were also the photographs of my mom attending “Over The Hill” birthday parties; she and her friends powdered their hair to look gray, donned old lady sweaters, and rented walkers and canes.

Forty was something. Forty was momentous.
And, to my twelve year-old brain, 40 was OLD.

Forty doesn’t seem even remotely old to me now. If anything, forty is young, maybe because it happened so freakin’ fast. In my mind’s eye, college – even high school – are just a blink away. The memories are so bright, the smells so strong, the sounds so clear, it amazes me that those days were (quite literally) more than half a lifetime ago.

I don’t miss those days, though; I rather prefer it here. Having more living beneath my feet gives me firmer ground to stand on. It’s not that I’ve left behind the person I was in my 20s and early 30s, but rather that I’ve brought her with me; together, we have worked damned hard to become who I am today.

I like me today.

At forty, the fragility and uncertainty of life are simultaneously disconcerting and empowering. I’ve had friends lose their parents, their spouses, and their children; I’ve had friends who, themselves, did not live to see 40. It’s no longer a given that tomorrow will come. But that doesn’t scare me. If anything, it’s a reminder of how important it is to make sure that the life I am living is the one I want.

By the same token, I’ve also seen people of a far more, ahem, advanced age make mind-boggling life changes. Attending college in their 80s. Riding a scooter at 94. Switching careers at 65. Getting married at 50. Finding love again after decades of thinking it was lost. Life is what we make of it; change is always possible; nothing is set in stone.

At forty, my convictions are so much stronger than before, but with one very important caveat: they can evolve at any time as soon as I gain more knowledge or see things from a new perspective. Learning is more critical to me than ever before; how else can I figure out where I stand and where I’m going if I don’t even know where I am?

At forty, I’ve finally figured out why I’m on this planet, what my mission is (not in the espionage way, although that would be really cool). The vague outline of the idea hit me out of the blue this summer and I’ve been honing in on it ever since.

I’m here to make connections.

Connections between facts and fictions. Connections between them and us, whoever that is. Connections between here and there. Connections between thoughts and actions.  Connections, most of all, between people. We are not in this alone, this whole life thing; we are meant to do it together.

It’s not easy – being honest, reaching out. It scares the heck out of me. But every time I do it – every single damn time – it feels amazing. It is the right thing to do. It’s why I’m here.

In honor of my birthday, I decided that I would do 40 random acts of kindness – one per day – leading up to Sunday. They ran the gamut, from paying for a stranger’s groceries to letting people merge ahead of me in traffic, putting “Safe Travels” notes on airplanes to donating to charities, placing flowers on windshields to leaving positive comments at the grocery store or the Y.
40 for 40 garbage
There’s a pack of Extra gum beneath the little card…
40 for 40 airplane
Attached to an airplane tray table…

40 for 40 dollar store
Left in the dollar store.

Sometimes, the RAOKs were entirely anonymous. Other times, they were anonymous but accompanied by a card (see above) identifying what was going on (while searching the internet for RAOK ideas, I came across several research articles detailing how people are more likely to spread kindness when they hear people talking about performing acts of kindness; connections, people!). And other times, I decided against using the little identification cards but looked people straight in the eye as I handed over a Starbucks gift certificate – because, every now and again, no matter how difficult or awkward it feels, that whole connecting thing is the most important and powerful part of all.

I loved the RAOKS so much, I’m kinda gonna keep doing them. Because is there ever too much kindness? No, there is not.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared this on Facebook:
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It got me thinking. A lot.
Is this where I want to be? If my life were the same, would I be happy? If not, then what?

I like my life now. Scratch that: I love my life now. It is a good, true, purposeful, fulfilling, enriching, invigorating, exciting, simple, joyful life. I am absurdly fortunate. For that – and for my loyal and hilarious and intelligent and good-hearted friends, for my family, for my health, for a job that challenges and strengthens me, for growing faith, for a neighborhood I’ve always dreamed of, for Nick and the girls (who make all of this, all of everything, worthwhile) – I am so tremendously grateful.

This is the life I’ve worked for. It hasn’t been easy getting here, but it’s exactly the life I want. Yeah, I’d like to lose five pounds. I still want to learn the cello. I plan to visit more of Europe and drink Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand. And, by God, I need to get myself to bed earlier.

But, in ten years, if my life looked like it does today?
I’d be thrilled. And damned lucky.

I don’t know if this is what I thought forty would be, but I’m so very glad that it is.

I am 40. FORTY!!!! And it is good.
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Once a teacher…

It has been almost seven years since I’ve been a classroom teacher. I became a stay-at-home mom when Annie was born in December of 2006, in part due to necessity and in part due to desire. I’ve loved being home and teaching piano for the past (almost-) seven years… with the exception of that second bout of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. And the biting phase Ella went through when she was four. And Annie’s liberal use of “fuggin‘” when she was not yet two (thanks, Nick). And every episode of My Little Pony.

But truly, I’ve loved the opportunity to be here when the girls get home from school, to take them to morning dance classes, to volunteer for field trips and be a room rep, to actually have time in the day to organize cupboards and see friends for lunch. But I miss teaching. I miss the classroom. I miss the kids.

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1998: With my first chorus, fresh-faced and un-jaded and such a dork, omg, look at my vest.

I knew, even with ten years’ experience and a shiny Master’s Degree from an awesome university, that it wouldn’t exactly be an easy waltz back into the classroom, and I would likely have to rely on subbing. I know that some – many? – people regard subs as not “real” teachers, but I’ve never taken on the stigma. My teaching career includes four years in my own classroom, two years subbing while I got my Master’s, and four more years back in my own (different) classroom, and I can say without question that being a sub provided me with some of my most challenging and informative experiences. I’m totally down with subbing.

Anyway, I assumed – again with the experience and the degree – that I’d apply, get hired, and land some subbing gigs pretty quickly.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

When no music positions presented themselves last spring (as I’d thought), I applied online – which is how every single teaching application is done these days – to substitute teach in at least ten districts (none of which is the girls’ district, because apparently they’re not hiring new subs right now. At all). When my applications didn’t receive so much as a nibble, I attempted to bring hard copies to various human resources offices, only to be told, “You can give those to us, but they’ll just go in the trash. We do everything online now.”

Awesome.

Short of enabling my online applications to set off fireworks whenever a potential employer clicked on them (which might not have turned out so well anyway), I could do nothing but wait and hope. For nearly six months, I heard from exactly zero schools about subbing, and assumed it was just a bust.

Then, in early September – right when I’d nearly given up hope – I heard from a district that they were interested! Two weeks after I signed up with them, I was called in by another district – to simply be put on their sub list – and was asked during the paperwork-signing meeting if I’d be able to sub the very next day.

All righty. Let’s do this!

9.27 subbing!
Not so fresh-faced anymore, but still with the same enthusiasm. And better clothes.

It was just what I’d wanted it to be, and I was genuinely ecstatic to be back at it again, even without my “own” classroom. But, yeah. Some things have changed since I was last “officially” a teacher.

Let’s start with the cute little ID badge (seen in classy bathroom selfie, above). Back when I subbed, there weren’t no such thang. You just said hello at the main office and slunk off to your classroom, hoping no one would put a “Kick Me” sign on your back. Now, it’s all official. I WORK here. Boo-yah!

Substitute teachers are now given the school safety plans, which include not only procedures for medical emergencies, fire drills, and school bus accidents, but also bomb threats, explosions, hazardous material spills, shelter-in-place due to a chemical or biological danger, person threatening others, and suspicious powder/mail. Y’all, I am no spring chicken. I taught in Colorado when Columbine happened, and was teaching only thirty miles from Manhattan in the aftermath of September 11th. Lockdown drills are just part of the scenery. But, man. I didn’t know schools were so freakin’ dangerous!

Those 5 a.m. wake-up calls? Yep. They still exist. But now the sub callers prefer to contact you as far in advance as possible… by email. In fact, they request that you email them to tell them your availability for next week. How cool is that?! And if they still need someone at 5 a.m., they’ll send out a group text to see who can do it. People. This changes everything. Back when, short of turning off the ringer (which, hello, dangerous), there was no way to avoid hearing that pre-dawn phone call, even if I wasn’t able to sub that day. Now, if I really want or need that job, I’ll hear the text message come in. If I don’t, I’ll sleep right through it. And so will everyone else. Genius!

One word: Smartboards.
Or is that two words? See, I don’t even know. That’s what I’m saying.

What hasn’t changed are the kids. When they come into the room and see a sub waiting for them, they still react with that same combination of suspicion, dread, and mischievous glee. They pull out all the stops and put on a fabulous show.

Good thing that what also hasn’t changed is me. You put on a show, I’ll be there to watch. I love me a good performance. Be sure to use proper inflection. And then I’ll tell you to march your butt right back into your seat (and, yes, I do know which seat is yours; don’t ask how, I just do) and sit down and no, you may not use the bathroom right now even if Mr. So-and-So lets you do it all the time, because we have learning to do. See these? These are lesson plans. And I know that you thought you’d just have a freebie when you came in here, but I’m gonna follow these plans. Because that’s what I’d want if I were your teacher. And if I were your mom.

Ready? Go.

Except I use humor and speak Sarcasm and smile a ton and they can see that I really, really want to be there. So it all works out in the end and there have been no “Kick Me” signs. Yet.

Tomorrow, I’m subbing again. I’m a little anxious, because it’ll be the first time in forever that Ella and Annie have started off to school without me (I need to leave the house at 6:30 – must. go. to. bed), but I’m also more than a little excited. I’ve got my School Safety Plan Quick Reference Guide in my bag. I’ll get my ID badge and be on my way.

So long as no Smartboards (Smart Boards?) are involved, I should be good.

Throwback Thursday: Crazy

It was my cousin’s 23rd birthday last week. Because her birthday is so close to Independence Day and her family visits the lake each year for the Fourth, we actually get to celebrate in person with her annually. As the festivities wore on, it occurred to Nick that, despite not “officially” joining the family until 2001, he had celebrated nearly all of Grace’s birthdays with her, having first joined me at the lake when Grace was just five.

It was my grandmother’s 75th birthday, and her three daughters, all of whom live out of town, were flying into town to surprise her. In turn, they were each bringing their own daughters – so it was to be the six of us all together. Happy Birthday! A girls’ vacation!
And Nick.

We had been dating for a little over a year. The previous summer, I’d felt practically apoplectic because he was in Minnesota and I was in Connecticut. It was that outrageous, blinding, gag-inducing kind of love, where nobody understood us and surely no one in the history of humans had ever experienced a connection as profound as ours. Except for the performers of the songs we included on the mix tapes we made for each another, with titles like “The Long Summer” and “Dreaming of You”. Dire Straits totally got us, man.

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Vintage 1994. A shared love of gigantic bangs will take you very, very far.

Anyway, because I was still in that but he’s my soulmate haze a year later, I brought Nick with me to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. I don’t remember too much from that trip, except that he brought his guitar and sat on the dock and played They Might Be Giants songs for my cousin, which I thought was just the sweetest, awesomest thing ever. Dear God, we were dorks.

What I do remember from that trip was the tumultuousness of being newly in love. The you are my everything feelings, and how very necessary they seemed at the time… but how exhausting they seem now. It’s not that I’m not still crazy about my husband, because I am… but a lot has changed in 19 years, and there’s just way less crazy in the crazy.

It is bigger that it used to be. There are two other beings who we created and need to keep alive, which is, you know, kind of all-consuming. Plus, there are car payments and doctor’s bills, jobs and home improvements and parent-teacher conferences. It is big, this life stuff. But it’s smaller than it used to be, too. We’ve found our spot, the place where we’re meant to be, both literally and metaphorically, and we’re comfortable here. It’s not the place I necessarily envisioned 19 years ago, but it’s a very good place to be.

It is easier. So much of the guesswork is over. I know that he always sits before he puts on his socks, that he’s changed his order from “well done” to “medium,” and that The Jerk never stops being funny. He knows that I sleep with white noise, that I compulsively watch My Cousin Vinny every time it’s on cable, and that I pack the grocery bags according to item type (cold stuff together; dry goods elsewhere; chocolate in my purse). It’s harder though, too. As job challenges and extended-family crises arise, it can be really difficult knowing just how to support one another while still being good parents, good partners, and not relying too heavily on wine and Chopped marathons.

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Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. Honeymoon style.

It is calmer than it was before. Gone are the moments of Could that conversation mean we’re over?? and impromptu getaways with friends. In its place are impromptu Bruegger’s breakfasts with Daddy and the girls, offered to them after they’ve received disappointing news from their theatre camp and Nick instinctively knows that they need some special attention. It’s also wilder than it was before. You never know who’s going to vomit in your car, require a visit to the emergency vet on the Fourth of July, or when you might deal with a 21-hour flight home.

It’s so much slower. We watch Homeland and Modern Family instead of heading out at night. A feverish child requires hours of couch cuddling, and chores and emails are swept aside. There are days when I can all but promise you that either Ella and Annie or I will make it until bedtime, but not all three of us, and I swear that each minute has been designed to prove to me why some animals eat their young. But it is also ridiculously fast. College memories seem a couple of years old, not decades old. It is impossible that our wedding was a dozen years ago. And if the girls don’t stop growing up so fast – so very quickly that I have to catch my breath to try to hold onto them – I’m gonna have to pull a Superman (the original Christopher Reeve version) and fly backwards around the earth, turning back time to have just a few more all-important minutes.

It’s predictable. There’s nothing to prove, no one to impress. Wednesdays, the garbage goes out. The girls have swimming on Mondays. After work, he’ll retreat upstairs to play games on his iPad before dinner; once the kids are in bed, I’m glued to the computer. And yet, it’s surprising. Nick said he was going to start swimming in the mornings, but honestly? I knew better. Pfft. Until yesterday, when the alarm went off at 6:30 and damn if he wasn’t done with laps by 7:15. His birthday gift this year was a trip with his dad to a Minnesota Wild game, orchestrated by me in secret (including contacting a buddy of his who is a sports writer and, amazingly, winding up with free tickets to the game). Not that I’m bragging, but it was a hell of a gift. Surprise!

It is sillier and more stupid. It’s rapping the lyrics to “Parents Just Don’t Understand” while the girls look away in horror. It’s singing bad 80s music in the shower while the other one of us harmonizes at the sink. But it is so much wiser. It is knowing when is an appropriate time to have an important discussion, recognizing that right after a Wild loss is a poor choice. It is ignoring nasty words that are said when someone is tired, understanding that they don’t mean what they’re saying, and that engaging in a counter-argument would be unproductive and dumb. It is knowing when to offer help and when to let the other person do it alone, when to suggest that another beer is a poor idea and when to join in for the next round, and that, through it all, there’s still no one on earth I’d rather be living this life with, and so long as we do it together, we’ll come out just fine.

It has become repetitive. We have the same argument over and over (oddly, Nick has yet to see that I’m right). I can quote you Looney Toons episodes by heart, not because I have seen them (not a single one), but because the girls have memorized them and quote them to us (please don’t be too jealous). There is the bedtime routine: let the dogs out, take Annie to the potty, check on Ella, finally get some shut-eye; lather, rinse, repeat. Yet, it is also exciting. We fly to New York for our anniversary, eating our way around the city. Nick receives an A in his first MBA class and has a Facebook post go viral; I look for a new teaching job. We’re planning a 40th birthday getaway that will (thank you, Macklemore) be effin’ awesome. Or… maybe there’s even a new Trip Flip on the DVR – and the crowd goes wild.

It is chaste and clean. The girls need to get off to school in the mornings, there is homework and email at night. We share a room with our daughter when relatives visit or we go to the lake. Valentine’s Day isn’t celebrated because (according to someone I know, *cough*) it’s too commercial. But it is also passionate and provocative. It is stolen moments when the kids aren’t around. It’s flowers sent just because and perfume worn because it’s his favorite. It’s knowing that little is sexier than watching him read to the girls before bed or bring the trash cans into the garage without being asked.

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Circa 2002. Borrowed puppies make everything cuter.

It is louder. There is constant singing (especially “Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow” – betcher bottom dollar that tomorrow, there will be 392 renditions of “Tomorrow” and my head will be sore from all of the banging). There is clomping around in high-heeled dress-up shoes and barking dogs and Stop touching your sister. It is also quieter. It is hearing him bemoan that he needs some desk space to do his homework, and then taking hours that evening to clear out cupboards and rearrange furniture for him so that he has a workspace. It is sweeping the floor but then having him reach for the dustpan and gather up the dust bunnies so I don’t have to.

It is sad. It is losing loved ones and fearing losing others. It is saying goodbye to our Golden Girl. It is the girls’ heartache over a broken foot, a troubled friendship, a lost blanket, and knowing that a kiss will not make things better. But it is also happy. Sometimes deliriously happy, but mostly just content, satisfied – joyful. It is watching our daughters read to one another. It is Annie and Ella giggling as Nick tickles them or I slip into an accent mid-sentence. It is Disney World before Christmas with our best friends. It is returning to Minnesota and showing the girls the bridge where we got engaged. It is card games with family after the kids are in bed. It is attending The Book of Mormon and our mouths being sore from all the laughing (in that omg I can’t believe I’m watching this kind of way, which is pretty much the best way).

It is kisses goodbye every morning and snuggling close every night. It is days when we hardly even see one another, much less have a meaningful conversation. It is hands held in the car and purposeful, over-the-top smooches in front of the kids, because we know it bugs the heck out of them – but also because, you know, we’re still in love and all that. It is acceptance. It is anger. It is forgiveness. It is my heart still skipping a beat when I see him across a room. It is his picking up chocolate-covered caramels on business trips and calling each night to talk to the girls before they go to sleep. It is saying something and having Nick chuckle at it, and feeling a smug sense of pride that, nineteen years later, I can still make this man laugh. Which is a good thing, because he does the same to me every single day.

It is not what I expected it to be; instead, it is so much less… but oh so much more.
Which, when I think about it, is pretty crazy.

The joys of motherhood

As seen on Facebook:

Hey! So have you ever come home and entered the kitchen only to have your daughter say, “Mommy – I think somebody did something in here…” and then you look over on the counter and notice that there is a puddle of wet, red glop at least 2″ thick by 2′ round? And then you see that a the pulpy red mess isn’t human or animal but is actually watermelon guts, and at first you think, “Holy crap, the dog must have jumped up on the counter and clawed his way into the watermelon…” but then you notice that the melon has a clean slice running down it (and why would a dog crack into an unscented, unopened watermelon??) and you realize, “Holy crap, that watermelon must have had a rotten spot and it became so spoiled that it just burst itself open and exploded its insides all over the counter”??

And because it was a *rotten* watermelon, the insides aren’t spongy like watermelon is supposed to be, but are instead all congealed and gelatinous and now oozing all over the entire counter and onto the floor? And also because it was rotten, the entire kitchen is now enveloped in this thick, gag-inducing SMELL… OMG THE SMELL… And you’re actually concerned that maybe you won’t be able to clean it up because your stomach is bottoming out but if you don’t, who will? because your husband is on an airplane and it is STILL LEAKING AND SMELLING and you have a piano student coming to the house in 30 minutes?? So you hike up your If-Mama-Can-Wipe-Butts-And-Catch-Puke-In-Her-Hands-Surely-She-Can-Clean-This-DISGUSTING-WATERMELON-AWFULNESS pants and manage to get rid of the mess?????Anyone? ANYONE???

No? Well. It was SOMETHIN’ ELSE. Truly.
The joys of motherhood just overfloweth in my kitchen, lemme tell you.

Annie wasn’t wearing her coat when I arrived to pick her up from school. Normally, I’m an if-you-don’t-want-to-wear-your-coat-that’s-fine-but-no-complaining-if-you-freeze-to-death kind of mom, but for some reason — maybe because it was a little chillier than normal? — I told her to please put on her coat for the walk home. Well, it must have been a rough afternoon in kindergarten, because there was NO. WAY. she was putting on the coat. She was too hot. She didn’t need it. It would make her backpack uncomfortable. Tantrum mode, right there in the school lobby.

Admittedly, it wasn’t that cold out, so I could have backtracked on the coat thing. And, if she’d been even the tiniest bit reasonable, or polite, or just not a screeching maniac, I might have rescinded my directive. But when you do the full-body I WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU dance and thrash around on the lobby bench and yell loudly at me about HOW UNFAIR I am, well, let’s just say that I don’t care how nutty my original request might have been: the gauntlet had been thrown, and that coat was going to be worn, sohelpmeGod.

I played it cool, didn’t raise my voice, only gave her one or two you-are-embarrassing-me-KNOCK-IT-OFF-AND-STOP-BEING-A-LUNATIC looks before I sat down on the bench beside her and — totally pulling out one of my awesome parenting strategies — proclaimed that we could just wait here for as long as it took for her to put on her coat. About three minutes into the wait, however, as she continued to freak out beside me, and after I’d checked my email and Facebook twice, I realized that I was the one being punished and that I didn’t want to sit on this freakin’ bench anymore — I wanted to go HOME. So, parenting strategies be damned, I got up and told her I was leaving (wait — another parenting strategy, holla!) and, lo and behold, Annie both followed me AND grudgingly put on the coat.

Given that she scowled and stomped and whined for the duration of the walk, and considering her lovely display in the school lobby, I decided that a brief time-out was in order when we arrived home. I instructed her to sit on the stairs and, in a couple of minutes, told her that I would tell her when she could get up.

As I was taking off my own coat (chilly outside), I heard Ella’s voice from the kitchen. She sounded fairly perturbed, so I headed that way pretty quickly… And then the smell hit me…  (See above: Facebook disaster.)

According to the comments I received, this apparently has happened to other people, which made me feel slightly better — but also made me feel horrible for them, because I totally mouth-breathed for a good 10 minutes while I cleaned up, and I imagine they must have felt similarly disgusted.

At first, I just stood looking at the mess, because how in the HELL do you clean up piles of gelatinous watermelon??? You can’t pick it up with your hands (OMG). You can’t use a sponge. You can’t sweep it away. You can’t even call the dogs to come help, because if it was rotten enough to explode into your kitchen like an angry gremlin bursting out of an egg, surely it was gross enough to cause canine dysentery or something. More than once, I actually said, out loud, “I don’t know what to do,” which was really comforting to Ella, who stood feet away watching the disaster ooze all over the counters.

I finally decided that the only way to fix it was to use paper towels to push the goo into a bowl, then dump the bowl into the sink, and repeat the process (many, many, OH SO MANY times) until everything was gone, then run the disposal like crazy and disinfect the counter a few hundred times. All while not breathing through my nose because throwing up would definitely have made the situation more complicated.

Did I mention that I had a piano student arriving at the house in 30 minutes? Yeah. Good times.

At long last, the mess was contained and I’d stopped dry heaving and I went to get Ella a snack. It was then that I noticed that Annie was still seated on the steps in what had become the longest time-out in history. Not sure which parenting strategy that was.

I’d love to say that, since then, Annie hasn’t pitched a fit over her outfits again. But that would just be silly. I will say, however, that since then, no watermelons have entered the house, nor will they anytime soon, unless they’re accompanied by freshness guarantees and nose plugs.

The joys of motherhood very literally overfloweth, indeed.