Bathroom Cheesecake

Recently, my husband bought one of those boxed, “No Bake Cheesecake” mixes from the grocery store. If you’ve never heard of such a thing, allow me to explain: all one has to do is beat fresh milk into pre-measured dry ingredients and cheesecake filling is magically created. It’s just that simple. The resulting cheese goo is poured into a ready-made pie crust and the entire dessert is placed in the refrigerator to set for about an hour before it’s eaten.

So. Easy. And tasty, too – lactose intolerance be damned.

The only real trouble was, on this particular night when a cake of cheese sounded most divine, both of our kids were home. Greedy parents that we are, we did not want to share.

“Whatever shall we do?” Whovian asked of me as he paced the wooden floor of our upstairs bedroom. “The children are downstairs in the living room at this moment. Verily, they will hear the sound of the electric mixer and surely know that something sweet is afoot in the kitchen!”

“Hark, dear husband,” I replied. “Do not trouble thy mind with such fanciful worries, for indeed there is a solution to our predicament.”

I had his full attention. I spoke once again:

“The children are engrossed in their YouTube videos. Go down to the kitchen, husband of mine. Fetch all of the supplies we will need to forge this cake of cheese. A mixing bowl. The electric mixer. A measuring cup filled with milk, the pie crust and the mix. Gather these things quietly and bring them up hither.”

“What then, mine wife? Surely the noise of the electric mixer will echo throughout the house, even from upstairs.”

“Aye. ’Tis wherefore we will make it in our bathroom, with the door closed. The din of yon bathroom fan will muffle the racket of our cheesecake-making and the children shalt ne’r know what we hath wrought.”

Whovian marveled at my genius resolve for but a moment before another concern flashed in his eyes.

“But soft, goodly wife,” he said. “We must refrigerate this cake for it is made of cheese and milk! How dost we hide it in our refrigerator for one hour? Surely our spawn will find it during their next search for snacks, for such expeditions occur every fifteen minutes!”

I wistfully looked through the glass of our bedroom doors, the ones that lead to the second-story balcony.

“My dear husband,” I said as my arm made a grand gesture toward the whirling snowstorm outside. “It is but five degrees Fahrenheit on this night. We need not a refrigerator, for nature hath given us all the chill we will need to set our cheesecake in complete privacy.”

A slow smile spread across Whovian’s face. It was the smile of a parent who knew that his children had been outsmarted.

And lo, but one short hour later, we sat on our bed together, partners in sweet conspiracy that we were, eating cheesecake and watching Netflix.

Aye verily, ’twas beautifully delicious.

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Word Of The Day: Fun Dip

Fun Dip |fən dip|

noun
• A powdery, sugary confection developed by Willy Wonka Satan himself, manufactured somewhere in the bowls bowels of Hell. Street names include Hell Sprinkles, Sinister Sand, Maleficarum’s Magically Multiplying Mess and Devil Dust. Has a 100% likelihood of spillage, with only a 30% probability of completely successful cleanup afterward.

• 9 out of 10 kids will agree with the following statement:
“Fun Dip tastes awesome, especially when it’s licked directly from the table, my pants, or even the floor!

• 9 out of 10 parents will agree with the following statement:
“There is nothing ‘fun’ about Fun Dip.”

More-You-Know

The Parent Trap Organization

I’m the former president of the Parent Teacher Organization at my children’s school. Mercifully, my term ended at the start of this school year, but only because I am on the executive board in another position for the next year and a half.

In other words, I am batshit insane.

My mental illness aside, I’m really just one more hapless victim. When you first reach the stage in life when you’re the parent of a child in school, it feels like a sudden vacation at the beach – five days a week. Your kid is in school and you find yourself skipping along the shoreline, basking in the warmth of the sunshine, unsuspecting of what lurks beneath the tide. A siren’s voice echoes, very softly at first, across deceptively calm ocean waves. It grabs your attention immediately. The song that tickles your ear is as clear as Waterford crystal and it’s the most beautiful thing you think you’ve ever heard in your life.

“Help the children,” it says, sexily and with much sexy, sexy persuasion. “Help them! They neeeeeeeeed you! WE need you! Join the PTO!”

Incapable of stopping yourself, you’re drawn toward the voice, powerless to resist. You wade into the ocean, deeper and deeper. The water isn’t as calm as it appeared when you stood in the sand. The current is strong and it pushes you around like it’s your boss. You keep pressing forward, anyway. Was that a shark that just brushed against your legs? You don’t care. You have to reach the source of the voice calling out to you. You must join the PTO because it says the children need you. You can’t let them down, they’re just kids! You swim harder, diving into huge waves that are wild and tumultuous now, never realizing that you’re in way over your head.

There is no escaping the siren’s grasp once you’ve answered her call. You are drowned at sea, your soul being claimed by Ursula the School Witch, who has you right where she wants you.

Forever.

Well, what feels like forever. Really, it’s until you either go into hiding (by moving to another state and/or entering the Witness Protection Program) or your kid graduates high school, depending on which thing comes first.

It’s too late for me, but as is customary for my lot in life, allow my experience to serve as a warning and heed my unsolicited advice.

No matter how laid back any PTO group is, you will find cliques lurking within and it will remind you of being in high school all over again. You might start to wonder what the fuck you’re doing there with those people because your high school years sucked major ass. Then you’ll remember that you’re doing this for the children, so you tough it out because that’s what a good parent does. And you’re a damned good parent – you’ve come to the meeting and everything. Be forewarned that you’ll find most of the usual array present and accounted for:

• The Nines, those moms who come to meetings dressed to impress. They must not have received the memo that while it’s called a “Parent Teacher Organization”, it’s really more of a “Mom Teacher Organization,” as very few men get involved and those who do usually don’t attend the meetings. There’s a social stigma involved when it comes to volunteering with the PTO, I suppose. It’s as though PTO-ing is women’s work, like laundry or blow jobs. The only men who attend our meetings are school administrators. While I admit that our superintendent is a tall silver fox hottie in his suit and tie, it’s a fucking PTO meeting, not a singles bar. Cleavage and/or sexy boots aren’t required for discussing classroom parties.

• The It Girls include two separate-but-equally-It factions: the women who were popular in high school and have continued to be popular to this day, and the women who were nobodies in high school but then blossomed in their 20’s or 30’s and became what they always wished they could have been in high school. They are the centers of everyone’s attention because not only do they have It, but they are all over It. The Nines often tend to cross over into this group and vice versa.

• The Sporticus Moms are overenthusiastic sideline gladiators who bleed school colors. They are constantly talking about whatever sport little Jimmy is playing this season, what he played last season and what he’ll be doing for the next five seasons. The Sporticus Moms are on a first-name basis with all the coaches and they look really cool as they high-five everyone they greet. They typically turn into Athletic Boosters in later years.

• The Blue Mom Group complains about everything. Every. Fucking. Thing. All the motherfucking time. They are only capable of focusing on the negative: the things that went wrong during PTO events or meetings, or the things that the teachers or the administration aren’t handling the way they think they should be handled. Nothing is ever being done correctly and they will let you know, repeatedly, that it is all doomed to fail.

You’ve probably noticed that I left one vital group out of the list. I didn’t mention the Overachieving Alpha Moms because they’re very misunderstood creatures. While there are women in the world who proudly wear that label, many of them – myself included – were sort of forced into the position. I’m a lazy-assed Beta mom, I do not particularly enjoy being in charge of Big Shit. “Let The Alphas Take Care Of That, I’ll Be Over Here Taking A Nap,” is my motto. Unfortunately, there are never enough Alphas to go around so Betas are often forced to masquerade as Alphas to fill the void. Being moms, we do what we must because maternal instinct drives us toward such things, even when it means over-committing to something that’s a voluntary gig.

You see, running a PTO is a lot like running a small country. Everyone wants money or needs volunteers and there are never enough of either to go around. A core group made out of necessity from the most-often-present individuals will become the driving force behind every single event, and they will fucking do everything. This is especially true for board positions. Few people ever truly want to be on the executive board, but there must be one in order for there to be a PTO. It’s like a law or something. Somebody’s got to do the work and one day that somebody is likely to be you, simply because you’re right there and hey where did everybody else go…?

Congratulations! You’ve just discovered the reason why it’s nearly impossible to leave the PTO. Whether you’ve been a board member or committee chairperson for five years in a row, or if you’ve worked at every single event during the course of the school year (been there, done that), you will eventually reach the point when you burn out and you’re ready to return home to your own family.

That’s when you find that there is nobody stepping up to take your place.

In fact, as soon as you make it known that you wish to lessen your workload or stop working completely, you will notice that everyone is beginning to back away very slowly. It’s the weirdest phenomenon I’ve ever witnessed and it always occurs just a few moments before they dematerialize into wisps of smoke, leaving you to stand there holding the bag, all by your lonesome. Did Scottie beam them up? You don’t know. They’re just fucking gone.

What is that awful sound? Is someone choking a wookie? No, it’s Ursula the School Witch, cackling louder than you’ve ever heard her cackle before because the wicked bitch knows that she owns your soul, and right now she’s telling you exactly where you stand. You WILL run the Winter Carnival.

UNTIL THE END OF TIME.

Letter To Monkey-Butt

Author’s note: I wrote the following piece based on the essay theme, “Letters To Children As They Leave The Nest.” My oldest is several years away from exploring the world on her own but time moves so quickly that her adulthood will be here before I know it. It’s been quietly sneaking up on me since the day she was born.

* * * * *

My Funky Little Monkey-Butt,

Your car is packed full of everything you own and it’s sitting in the driveway, patiently waiting to whisk you off toward your future and far away from me. I took the liberty of putting an emergency hammer and seatbelt cutter in the glove compartment between the two front seats, and there’s a new umbrella and a heavy duty LED Maglite in the pocket of your driver’s side door. The flashlight shines so brightly you could send Morse code signals to the International Space Station if you wanted to, but it also doubles as a blunt force weapon. You know, just in case you accidentally summon aliens to your location instead of a tow truck or something.

While you’re out there driving through the world alone, please try not to let your fuel level fall below a quarter of a tank. Your dad lovingly refers to me as “Gas Troll” because I nag him about that same thing whenever we’re on road trips together, but the truth is when you’re traveling unfamiliar roads it can be hard to tell how far away the next gas station might be. You never know when there will be an emergency (think zombie apocalypse or a sharknado) and you’ll need to travel a long distance at a moment’s notice without having the opportunity to stop for gas first.

I realize that I’m sort of rambling right now. That’s because I’m finding it hard to know what to say to you. This moment came too soon. I’m not really sure how it happened but the last eighteen years seem to have passed by us in an instant; one minute you were the tiny redheaded infant who was snuggled so tightly in my arms and in the next you’ve become the beautiful and determined young woman who’s reading this letter. After all of those occasions when I joked about the first day of school being “Adult Christmas”, marveling at how much I genuinely enjoyed the peace and quiet of the house whenever the bus pulled away and took you to school, I honestly thought that I would be ready for today. I’m not. Letting you go is hard for me, but I’m doing the best I can to accept the reality of you reaching adulthood. You’re going places, kiddo. I hate that I won’t be there with you to make sure that you’re okay. At the same time, I’m incredibly excited for you. I promise I won’t become one of those creepy mothers who lives vicariously through her children’s experiences, though.

You already know pretty much everything there is to know about the world, don’t you? Pay attention to my advice, anyway. Humor your mother just one more time because I’m not going to be in your face every day, making sure that you’ve eaten a healthy breakfast, checking to see that you have everything you need before you head out the door, asking if you’ve charged your cell phone…

Speaking of which: please keep your phone charged. You’re absolutely terrible at that! How hard is it to remember to toss your phone on the charger for a little while every day or so? Good grief. Memorize a few important phone numbers, while you’re at it. We’ve come to rely so heavily on technology – dialing folks by programmed name alone – that we no longer need to recall the critical details for making contact. If you’re ever placed in a foreign jail cell and the authorities have confiscated your cell phone, or if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and your phone has died because (once again) you forgot to charge it, you’ll be lost and/or imprisoned forever. As your mother, I do not want you to suffer such a lonely fate. I’ll admit I’ve got to get better at this, too; I still don’t know your dad’s new cell number and he’s had it for over a year.

You have a recent copy of the Rand McNally Road Atlas in your car and a couple of fancy GPS apps on your phone, but do you know where you’re going? A thousand bucks says you don’t, and you know what? That’s normal. Grownups love to preach about the importance of furthering your education, of finding a career to be passionate about right away and jumping head-first down the appropriate chute to get there as soon as possible. You’re barely out of high school. It’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life. And it’s okay to change your mind later on. You’re going to experience so much personal growth and change during your twenties that you might end up in a completely different place than you’re imagining for yourself today. Life is one big adventure and you have to find your own way, even if it’s more of a puke-inducing roller coaster than it is a corporate ladder.

As your escapades begin, consider applying for a passport as soon as possible. They take weeks to process and you never know what kind of amazing, spur-of-the-moment travel opportunity may be offered to you through your college, your employment, or your social circles. You, my sweet girl, have inherited your mother’s gypsy spirit. Embrace it. Experience as much of the world as you can because it is a magical place full of interesting people and untold stories.

Along the way, you are going to make mistakes. While you’re young and flexible, learn what you can from them. When you’re old and gray (and hopefully not too crippled by osteoporosis – make sure you take your calcium supplements regularly), look back and laugh at all of the ridiculous blunders you made. Educate, entertain, and terrify future generations by sharing your anecdotes of what-not-to-do. No matter what happens, don’t ever allow your errors to define the person you are. Don’t let them scare you away from taking chances at any point in your life because you just never know how things will turn out. At the same time, don’t be afraid to change the things that aren’t working for you. You get one chance at this particular life, you shouldn’t settle for anything that – or anyone who – makes you feel inferior or unhappy. You are a wonderful person. You’re intelligent, tenacious, beautifully ironic, and so warmhearted. You deserve all the best that life has to offer.

With that being said, not every thing is going to go your way all of the time. I wish I could guarantee you that it will, but let’s be honest – it won’t. Quite frankly, circumstances will occasionally turn into complete shit no matter what you do. That’s the unpredictable nature of life. Try your best to accept those indeterminate challenges that lay ahead because they’ll make you stronger. They’ll hopefully make you much wiser. They will also increase your capacity for helping others who are struggling with their own battles. I hope that you never lose your compassion for people, your empathy, or your patience. The world can be an unmerciful place and at times it will absolutely push you to your limits, but it needs you.

I need you, too.

I want you to remember that you always have a home here. Don’t let your pride stop you from coming back to the place where you grew up if that’s what you feel you need to do at some point in the future. I’m not going to turn your bedroom into an exercise room or a craft room as soon as you drive away today because we both know how much I hate exercise and crafts. This house is your home and it will always be here for you as long as your dad and I draw breath, and even after that because you’re in the will.

I love you so much. You don’t have to call me every day – in fact, I hope you have such a marvelous time that you’re not even able to – but do check in once in a while. I’ll be thinking of you, always. Well, except for maybe when I’m pooping. Or when I’m having sex with your dad because ewww…. that’s a total mood killer.

(Admit it: you’re going to miss my exquisite mental tortures. Just you wait until you have children of your own – you’re going to have so much fun passing on the legacy, I promise.)

Anyway… drive safely. Always yield to pedestrians, even if they act like douchebags and you’re tempted to run them over. That’s what daydreams are for.

Don’t pick up hitchhikers, no matter how cute they are, because serial killers are always the people we least expect. (Also, please don’t ever be a hitchhiker for that very same reason.)

Do not accept abuse from anyone. Ever. If someone abuses you in any way, get the hell out of the situation and never look back – not even once. If you need me, I will be there no matter where you are or how far I have to travel in order to reach you. I’ll even help you to dispose of the body and provide an alibi.

Practice safe sex every single time you have it because some diseases are permanent and those momentary lapses in judgement cannot be undone.

Read books more often than just once in a while.

Don’t break the bank, but do go out and enjoy live music as often as possible.

Avoid taking any drugs that are offered to you because you can’t be sure of what you’re actually being given.

Remember that it’s okay to say “no” to people; you did it all the time when you were three so I know you’re capable of it.

Try to stay positive no matter what happens in your life; things could be worse than they are and there is always someone else out there who’s got a heavier load to bear.

You’ve been blessed with the gift of effortless wit and sarcasm – use it. Humor will see you through the worst of times, and it will make the best of times even better. Never lose the ability to laugh at yourself, or at other people, or just because.

I think that’s everything. Well, not really… not even close. But you’re fixin’ to leave and I’m unfortunately out of time. I’d give anything to have more.

Go forth and conquer the world, kiddo. It’s waiting for you.

All my love,
Mom

P.S. Don’t forget to stop for gas whenever you hit 1/4 tank! I’m telling you right now, if a zombie typhoon suddenly drops out of the sky and whirls bloodthirsty havoc through your city, you’ll thank me while you speed along the highway, whistling a happy tune and leaving behind a wake of screaming victims who didn’t heed the same advice from their own mothers.

The Importance of Labels

I have a plastic box with an airtight lid and it’s full of all sorts of baby memorabilia I’ve held on to for over twelve years now. It contains two babies’ worth of well-protected treasures: first haircut clippings, going-home outfits, ultrasound photos, belly button stumps (don’t judge me), hospital-issued newborn hats and long sleeved tee shirts that I accidentally-on-purposely smuggled home in my backpack, ID bracelets, and other miscellaneous things I thought were important when I placed them inside.

Disorganized though it may be, it’s a coveted time capsule that I greatly cherish. Every now and again I like to open it up and poke around at the contents within, smiling to myself as I reminisce about those golden days of yore. It’s like being transported backward through time. When I close my eyes I see snapshots taken from idyllic memories that have remained frozen in suspended animation all these years; perfect moments that came and went long before my two daughters were able to say things like, “You’re such an idiot!” and “Shut UP! I’m telling Mom you said that! MOMMMMMMMM!”

When I was cleaning my bedroom closet one afternoon, I found myself sitting on the carpeted floor, taking a break and sifting through my box of baby treasures once again. My older daughter, Doom, crept up from behind and her eyes lit up when she saw what I had before me.

“Is that my baby stuff?” she asked with excitement.

“Yep! Yours and your sister’s,” I replied.

“Cool!” She sat down next to me and began pulling things out to inspect them, including a snack-sized Ziploc baggie containing what looked like a flattened raisin. I beamed as I informed her it was a belly button stump. She dropped it like a hot potato in favor of two of what looked like adult-sized socks with the feet cut off, each one fashioned from soft ivory fabric that was gathered and tied with a string of yarn at one end.

She held them up, one in each hand. “What are these?”

“Those are the little hats they put on you guys right after you were born!”

“Cool! Which one was mine?”

With a broad smile still plastered on my face, I paused for barely a second before declaring with absolute certainty that THIS one was her hat and THAT one belonged to her sister.

Truth is, I had no fucking idea which one was which. Since both girls were born in the same hospital, their hats were nearly identical. Was it the shorter one with the white string? Or did she have the longer one with the weird discoloration on it?

Fuck me, I just couldn’t remember.

How could I forget such an important detail? One of these items was the very first hat that would ever be placed upon her precious little head, and I’m a shitty mother because I don’t know which one it was.

When my girls were babies and toddlers, I hadn’t yet realized the importance of labeling things. That’s a lesson I didn’t learn until both of them were in elementary school.

Around this time of year, kids across the country are busy making Christmas ornaments at school. Seriously, I think that must be the only thing they teach in December because not only is my tree completely covered in handmade decorations, but I’ve got paper wreaths, poinsettias, and stockings out the ass.

When my younger daughter, Destruction, was in kindergarten she brought home the exact same Christmas crafts her sister had done three years previously and I thought, “Awwww! This is so great! I’m going to have two of everything and my tree is going to be covered with ornaments that my kids made by hand!”

I promptly hung her decorations on the tree alongside her sister’s. The differences were so obvious! Destruction always loved to use way too much glue so it was glopped all over everything and had dried like white icing on her construction-paper-cone tree. She had a thing for glitter so her pinecone ornament looked like it was trying to masquerade as a disco ball. Destruction’s paper dreidel was colored in blue and yellow marker, which stood out in stark contrast to the blue and yellow crayon that Doom had used on hers.

The tree was a thing of beauty, full of handmade love and priceless childhood memories.

Fast-forward to the following December. I took out the special box of Christmas crafts. One by one, I began placing them on the tree.

And then I stopped in my tracks.

Was this Destruction’s beaded candy cane, or was it Doom’s? I think Doom’s pattern was red-red-white, red-red-white. Or maybe it was the white-white-red. Shit. Construction-paper-cone trees… they both used an insane amount of glue and macaroni. Both pinecones had lost most of their glitter. OH MY GOD, WHOSE DREIDEL IS THIS? THEY’RE BOTH BLUE AND YELLOW!

From that point on, every work of holiday art or craft that entered our home was labeled immediately upon arrival, in an inconspicuous place using a permanent marker.

Then I went back and labeled all the previously-made decorations as best as I could remember. Or guess.

Mostly, I guessed. I had a 50/50 chance of being right, right?

Learn from my mistakes and let this story be a lesson to you. When you’ve got more than one child you always think you’ll remember who created what because every piece of art is as unique as the snowflake who made it. You’re their mother, how could you ever forget?

Label that shit. Right now. I guarantee that by the time next Christmas rolls around, you’ll be wracking your brain trying to remember whose popsicle-stick-reindeer is whose. They all fucking look the same!