Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Haters Gunna Hate; Potatoes Gunna Po-Tate

Last week while talking with my friend Christina, she mentioned how cool it was I was going to be on NPR, but also how brave I was.


Being brave was something I hadn't considered before. But Christina knew, and I'm glad she said it to me, because as happy as I am with the way my piece turned out, there were people a little...less happy...with it. And I needed to consider that it may not please everyone.

And for a people-pleaser like myself, that's tough to deal with.

My piece ran tonight, with a link to this blog on the written story, and a comment section. I only read a few comments before I was in tears. As tough as I try to pretend I am, I'm really not. I'm not thick-skinned by any stretch of the imagination, and strangers were passing judgement on my life after hearing an 8 minute interview.

I wanted to get in the mix, but I know enough about myself that it wouldn't be good for me personally. I stopped reading the comments, but what I saw can never be unseen. Like the lady who said because I was married to a lawyer, I obviously can't relate to having to stretch a dollar and go without. If she only knew about my life before NPR, when I was working full-time, Disgruntled Husband was working full-time, and we barely had enough to pay the sitter so we could continue to work, to pay the sitter. Or the guy that started his comment out by saying something to the effect of, "How can she claim she's so close with her kids..."

Here's the thing, folks. I'm a real person. I'm real with feelings and a life and family, I'm real just like all of you. But I let you in my kitchen tonight. I flew my freak flag (JDub hates it when I use that term) for everyone to see. Aside from a few editing things, that's pretty much what my life is like, and if you don't agree with how I live it, then don't live with me.

And as my friend Michele (and then later Em) pointed out, "Haters...you are famous enough to have haters. Awesome." It was just what I needed to put it all in perspective.

I put it out there. I was happy with the result. That's going to be what I get out of the experience. And given the opportunity, I would gladly do it again. My kids are good kids; I'm a good mom, and as they get older, there will be more time for dinner table conversations and more leisurely dining experiences. But I know what I can expect out of them at this point in their lives, and I'm not going to feel badly about that.

Back to your regularly-scheduled programming.

Monday, February 25, 2013

NPR and The Snarky Mom

Back in the day, I worked for WVIK, the NPR station in the Quad Cities where I went to college. I saw an ad to work at a radio station and had visions of Loni Anderson and David Silver (90210...remember, he had a gig playing tunes at West Beverly) dance in my head.

I arrive there and find out it's an NPR station. Being raised by conservatives, I had never heard of NPR my entire life. It was apparent my first day that I was actually going to do work. A lot of work. Involving writing and interviewing and other smart-people things. (My first day, I had to compile a brief biography of John Denver, as he had just died a few days before.) I lasted about about a week there.

Looking back, I wish I had stuck around that job, because it was (retroactively) fascinating and cool, and I probably could have raised a few IQ points over the years.

Why tell that seemingly random and unflattering story? Well, yours truly will be on NPR tomorrow afternoon, and not because I called in for 1D tickets. Here, let me boldface that for you:

Tuesday, February 26 during All Things Considered (3-6 p.m.) an interview with me, Mean Jessica, will air to a nation of unsuspecting smart people.

I responded to something NPR posted on Facebook, and the next day, Allison Aubrey called me. I'm still amazed that she chose my response. It's for a series called "Crunch Time" and it's about what happens with families between the hours between when the kids get home from school and go to bed.

Oh honey. I could write you a novel.

(When I posted this on my Facebook page, a smart friend of mine from college asked what the subject was. I laughed at myself when I responded "My thoughts on Benghazi." I quickly posted underneath that what it really was.)

I don't want to give too much away about the interview; just know that you get to hear my thoughts on modern day parenting, pop culture references, and the chaos of my kids at dinner time.

I just hope I haven't embarrassed myself by broadcasting all of this. I mean, more than I embarrass myself by writing these posts, anyway.

So tune in tomorrow to Smart People Radio (what I called it to my nephew last year, when he asked what it was), and hear me attempt to be smart for a little bit.

And maybe a Simpsons' reference or two.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter is Never Going to End

It's snowing right now. Again. I woke up to the sound of snow plows scraping the roads. Again. My kids are home from school. Again. (Though it was already on the calendar for them to have off; although if they didn't, they'd be home for a snow day.) My black van is white and gray from salt and snow. Again.

I get it. I live in Wisconsin, right? This is winter in all its messed up glory. Normally, I have a much cheerier attitude about winter, going all Pollyanna and spouting, "But if it wasn't for the dreariness of winter, we wouldn't appreciate the spring!"

Yeah, F that shit.

It's never going to end. It's going to be February forever.

At first, I thought my awful attitude was a result of being in the basement all winter last year. (See here for a refresher as to why.) Like maybe missing last winter has made me soft somehow, and I lost my ability to cope with it. Well, then I heard similar sentiments from my friends and family, all of whom weren't stuck in a dungeon for early 2012, and they have the same feelings.

(My friend C. is a features editor for the local newspaper. He was trying to get ideas for some feature stories for this month, and the best idea he could think of was "The Top 10 Places to Get Drunk In the Area." I heard his wife came up with it. I'm totally on board with that idea.)

This is my backyard when it's not covered with snow and ice and despair. It's never going to look like this again, so I'm glad I took a picture last year.

I'm trying to improve my attitude, really. My birthday is next month, and I'm trying to remind myself that it's generally warmed up by then. The days aren't as long any more, and it's actually still light out at 5 p.m. when Disgruntled Husband comes home. The stores all have Easter candy out right now, with cute pastel decorations involving green grass and bright yellow chicks. But then my inner cynic comes out in the middle of Walgreens and shouts, "You can't promise me Easter Egg hunts when you have Ice Melt on the end cap of an aisle with Peeps!"

So again I say, F that shit. It's never going to end.

The sky is the same color as the ground, and has been since Thanksgiving. The beautiful white fluffy snow of Christmastime has iced over to the crusty, dirty piles of crap along the curb. Even my kids, who love playing in the snow, are sick of it. "Is it ever going to spring, Mommy?" Mini Me asked.

No. It's not. Ever.

I'd admit to some sort of Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder if I had one, but I'm not depressed. I'm just pissed. I have a bad attitude, and much to Disgruntled Husband's dismay, they just don't make a pill for Asshole.

 I feel like I'm waking up everyday and it's the same day. Suddenly, Groundhog's Day (filmed in Woodstock, Ill., near where I grew up) doesn't seem so funny. I tip my soggy knit woolen hat to you, Phil Conners. You were a severely misunderstood man.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pity party waiting in my bed, under my covers. I'd say "Wake me when spring comes," but like I said before, that's never going to happen.

February is never going to end.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Moving Makes Me Mean(er)

The day after Christmas, I stood in my living room surrounded by piles of luggage, opened presents as far as the eye could see, a dying Christmas tree and all it's yuletide lameness, and the leftover remnants of a present wrapping station, and I lost it.

We were at capacity. There was not one more thing this house could hold, and my impulsivity and I did the most logical thing: logging on to the local real estate brokerage's web page.

Disgruntled Husband and I have always kept an eye on the market around here. He does it because he does a lot of real estate transactions; I do it because I'm a nosy SOB. So in bed that night, I scrolled through the local market. And then I saw it: a house I was familiar with at a price I was stunned to see. The next day, I told DH about what I'd found, not even thinking it would ever be a possibility. He called the realtor and scheduled a showing for us. Before we knew it, we had an accepted offer on the place (which, we said in glee, we could fit our entire house in this new house's basement.) Which then left us with the small task of selling our current house.

You know, the easy stuff.

I had lived through the process as a kid and knew it wasn't pleasant by any stretch of the imagination. DH lived in the same house since he was brought home from the hospital, until I plucked him out of Iowa. Sufficed to say, he was a little less-familiar with the process.

It took us a month to just get the house ready to be on the market. That's a month of cleaning, deep cleaning, super deep cleaning, and extra-strength uber super deep cleaning. We rented a dumpster. We hired a contractor to finish some projects that were unfinished. We hired a painter (because, really, you don't want me painting). We re-arranged and purged and boxed up non-essentials to be stored in the garage. To say that I've been a little less-than-pleasant about this process is like saying I was only mildly annoying as a child.

I told DH at the beginning of this process that it wasn't going to be fun. It was going to be awful, and could very well end us. He smirked; I was being serious. He may have gotten the point one night when I stormed out of the house and didn't return until 2:30 a.m., because he had not only forgotten to pick up, he made the mess worse. I came back and told him I didn't have the energy any more to go through with the move.

All of this can be yours!* (*Toddler, cat, and nervous breakdown not included.)
And yet, somehow we've made it to this point. I'm not sure how. I blocked out a lot of it, with only my receipts to show me what happened. (That's another story all together. We figured at most, we'd spend about $200 getting this place together. Add a 2 in front of that number.)

The cleaning lady (first of my adult life) was here Thursday. Friday, we had the pictures and paperwork finished. It was listed by Saturday morning. I suppose time will tell what happens next.

Here's the weird thing. I feel like I've stumbled into this whole thing. Yes, we need space. Yes, we are on top of each other. But I love my house. I freaking love it. If I could wave my magic wand and get another bedroom and bathroom, this post wouldn't even exist. We moved in when I was pregnant with Hoover. I brought home two babies to this house. I can point to every home improvement project we did; I can show you were Hoover did such things as pour the milk over his newborn sister's head or get stuck in the kitchen stool, almost requiring the assistance of the local fire department. We have plants outside that were given to us by DH's folks, one of which was a present when Mini Me was born. This house is us, it's who we are, and it's kinda sad to see that chapter of our lives come to an end.

But the morning fights over our one upstairs bathroom trumps all of that. Memories be damned! We all want to groom in peace!

I hope each one of you says a prayer/crosses fingers/lets a dove go in our name that our house sells quickly. I just don't know if we can keep it this clean for more than a week. It may very well become Survivor: Mean Jessica's House. If this drags on like I hear it should, I may be forced to vote people out of the house.

It's so cute that they think I'm kidding.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Special Guest Writer: S**t You Shouldn't Have Bought For My Children

I'd like you all to meet my friend Jamie. Jamie is a mom to three darling daughters, wife to one hilarious guy I went to high school (and college) with, and also runs a successful (and tasty!) business out of her house. For years, I have been asking her to write a guest blog post about her life. Okay, asking may not be the right word. Perhaps it's somewhere between begging and demanding. But I finally wore her down enough for her post to appear in my in-box.

A long time ago in a lifetime far, far away, Jamie and I were at college together. With the same major. And extra-curricular activities. And general career aspirations. In fact, I remember being in the college newspaper office with her one long evening, saying to her, "Why do I feel like we'll just keep bumping into each other the rest of our lives?" And to her credit, she didn't run away screaming. Well, look at us now, two educated, well-read (though I will gladly point out she's a lot more well-read than I am) women, now at home raising a family and trying to decide when exactly is the appropriate time during the day to move from coffee to wine. We live four hours away from each other, but most of our get-together ideas involve a Barnes and Noble, spa treatments, copious amount of red wine, and our husbands somewhere else with the children.

(That was a lengthy introduction, I know. I just adore Jamie so much, I can't edit my words down! You need to know EVERYTHING!)

She wrote this after Christmas, but I think it has a yearly appeal. I can't wait to hear what her kids got for Valentine's Day.

Contrary to what others might think (like my husband, who constantly bemoans the fact that he can’t stay at home doing nothing all day), being a stay at home mom does not leave me a lot of free time.  In fact, a typical school day requires me to be in the car every two hours, which means that I can’t get much done during the day. What free time I do have comes in 10 minute increments, which is perfect for reading other people’s blogs, or making sure those Christmas cookies don’t go to waste. As the holidays approached, I noticed a lot of articles and blog entries by parents regarding their families’ gift choices, as in, “Please don’t buy this for my kid for Christmas.”
Apparently some people in my family didn’t read those.
While my girls got many very thoughtful and age-appropriate gifts (and of course everyone was properly thanked with a hand-written note, because I’m obsessive like that), a few gifts will be promptly donated to Goodwill (or, knowing my tendency to forget about things that aren’t immediately blocking my way to the bathroom or the kitchen, they might make it to the Toys for Tots drop box next Christmas). Here are a few:
Three presents from Uncle Single-and-Childless. The next stuffed thing that comes into this house will be HIM.

Angry Birds game

Based on the perfectly good phone app whose best feature (allowing kids to destroy things without the messy cleanup) is completely obliterated by all the tiny pieces included in the games, which are intended for kids ages 5 and up. My kids are 5, 3, and 1. So not only are these games only appropriate for my oldest, she can only use them when the youngest is napping, because you just know that kid’s gonna put every little piece in her mouth.

But the best thing is written right on the box: “Do not aim at eyes or face.” What five-year-old’s aim is good enough to avoid those and other delicate parts of their anatomy, I wonder? Guess who got these games for my kids? My two brothers-in-law, both single and childless. Maybe instead of donating these I should save them to give to my future nieces and nephews.
   “Mess-free” finger paints

Newsflash: no paint is ever mess-free. Especially when my kids are involved.

Window markers

These would be really great if they ONLY worked on windows. I handed these to my three-year-old, and five minutes later I notice my white window trim is now a beautiful shade of aqua blue, as are my kid’s lips. There’s a reason blue lipstick is only for the runway.

Moon Dough

Another supposedly “mess-free” product, but any parent who has given this shit to their kid knows how impossible it is to pick up all the tiny flecks this stuff creates. And if your floor is dirty and full of crumbs to begin with, like mine? Don’t bother picking it up, just run that vacuum and call it a day.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but honestly, I’d rather my family saved their money and spent it on themselves. My kids will not be traumatized for life because they only got a few, well-chosen presents for Christmas. It has taken my mother-in-law five Christmases to come to this same conclusion. One year she got a few of those giant bags to wrap huge, unwieldy gifts, and filled them with entire racks of clothes from Babies R Us, plus a ton of toys. This year she kept it simple: a Holiday Barbie and a few books for each kid. Both things my kids love, and they didn’t take up much space in the van on the way home. I can’t say the same about the giant stuffed panda (again, a brother-in-law gift). He looked pretty good tied to the roof of the van, though…the panda, not the brother-in-law, although don’t think I wasn’t tempted.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

One Direction: Straight to Hell

Preteen girls all over the world are obsessed with the band One Direction. They know their names, likes, dislikes, birthdays and pets' names.

Make that preteen girls and at least one pre-menopausal woman.

That's right, folks, JDub has turned to the dark side.

I knew her daughter OJ was a fan, and she should be...she's 13. I was in her room not long ago and there were posters all over her wall of the band. (JDub informed me that the shorthand for the band is 1D. Which will also be her cell-block number when she's committed.)

But JDub is...well...not 13. I called her yesterday and asked what she was doing. Her response? "I'm looking at 1D stuff on the internet."

And that wasn't the first time she's answered my question like that.

Frankly, it's scaring me a little. During the course of our conversations, she asked me if I had any concert connections in Chicago, told me she wanted a pair of red Doc Martens that she could paint 1D on one of them (I said it should be a fleece), admitted she was like one of those Twi-hard Moms we make fun of, and when asked how old the eldest member of the band was, she knew.

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

I'm all for being a music fan. I've been loving Weird Al since I was 8 and know all sorts of things about him. But he was never a teen pop sensation, or ever featured in a special poster edition of Teen Beat Magazine. (Though if he was, full disclosure, I would have bought it.) When I was in 5th grade, New Kids on the Block were big, and I was a fan. (Though to be fair, I wasn't as big of a fan as some of the other girls. I never had the NKOTB sleeping bag or jean jacket, but I know girls that did.) In college, many of my friends were ironically fans of 98 Degrees and/or Backstreet Boys. I didn't get into it at all, but hey, more power to ya.

There's always room for more crazy at the Pathetic Mom Club.

I asked JDub if she was ever a boy band fan back in the late 90s. She said no. "Clearly," I said. "You were saving yourself for 1D."

When I was in 2nd grade, Tiffany entered the scene. I had a friend that saw her at a shopping mall and had her poster up on her wall. Her mom came in the room and started gushing. "Yeah! She [Tiffany] has a new boyfriend and his name is Danny and he's soooo cute, and look, she signed my jean jacket..."

I was 7 years-old and I'll never forget this. It was the first time I pitied an adult. And I felt pretty bad for my friend, too. I mean this gushing embarrassment of a grown woman was her mom.

Ahem. JDub, take from that story what you will.

OJ may think it's super cool her mom is a 1D fan with her, but I'm setting an egg timer for when she totally rebels, trades 1D for Skrillex, buys the black lipstick and pierces something on her face. And it could have all been prevented.

I mentioned that JDub needed an intervention. That's when she told me I was late to that party; her other friends have already said this to her, possibly staged one through Skype. I told her I had to get off the phone and she said, "You're totally going to look up 1D on the internet now, aren't you?"

Uh, not even if I was related to them.

She also told me their names. It's something like Harry, Louie, Zane, Liam, and Niles. You know, like the books in the Bible. I can never unlearn that.

She won't admit which is her favorite, but says that her obsession love of the band is purely innocent. After all, she says with a heavy sigh, she's old enough to be all of their mother.

I'm a little scared for all of us right now. This is the world we live in. She wants to make a shirt to wear to the concert she plans on going to this summer, the concert she's looking to buy some scalped tickets to, the concert she's entertaining the thought of driving to Detroit for.

If she gets a 1D tattoo, our friendship is over.


I emailed JDub to warn her about this post, and here's what I got back on my phone:

What are all of these, you ask? Here's a sample:

She needs help. Serious help.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

And now for your entertainment...

Hi folks...

I'm still here, alive and mostly well. I've got some posts lined up for the coming days, including a fabulous guest writer that you all NEED to know. I've taken a job (gulp) since the beginning of December, which happens to correspond with when I last posted. There's some other stuff going on here too, all great, that I'll explain later. But man, I need to learn how to juggle all of this better. Or just hire a staff. Someone out there will work for cookies and funny texts, right?

Here's something to entertain you. This was yesterday. Larry Potter had a piano thing at a Barnes and Noble, and here's his performance. Well, parts of it. I had to cut transmission when Mini Me sucker punched Hoover; she was trying to help me out. Watch and you'll see why. This is a pretty good cross sample of what my winter has been like.

Still Stuck in Wisconsin,