All Because of Two Cupcakes

The other day, I was standing gloriously alone in my kitchen. No one else was home. Just me and the cat who I still refuse to call Clawdia. I call her “Girly Girl” because it’s the first thing that comes out of my mouth when I see her.

It’s weird. I know. Cats are weird too, so it’s kinda poetic.

So I stood alone in my kitchen, and I had in front of me 4 perfect cupcakes. Purchased for my 4 not so perfect kids. They really looked good. I opened the box. And they really smelled good. And I’ve eaten these cupcakes before, so I knew they would really taste good.

But, like a smart 39 year old mother of four who practices moderation in all aspects of her life, I closed the lid, walked away, and caught up on Orange Is the New Black before I had to pick up the boys from school.

Just kidding.

I ate one of the cupcakes.

Just half of it at first.

And, damn, that shit was good.

So. Very. Good.

Then, I thought, I’ll just put this half back, and I’ll just try this other cupcake because I bought these cupcakes for the boys, but I sorta bought this one for me.

And, mother of pearl, that next cupcake was So. Very. Very. Very. Good.

It was so good that I didn’t even stop halfway through. I actually looked at the cat and said, “Holy shit, this is insanely good. It’s a shame you can’t eat cupcakes, Girly Girl.”

And she looked away because she always looks away.

Or because I had icing on my nose.

So, then I looked at the first half-eaten cupcake, and I thought, I ate slightly more than half of that, and one of those kids is going to have a hissy when there is less than half a cupcake to eat, so I may as well just eat the rest of that one too. Then I’ll tell the boys I bought 2 cupcakes for the 4 of them to split, and won’t we all just sing Kumbaya over that.

And that was a good plan. So that’s what I did. And everyone was happy. Not Kumbaya happy, but happy.

Everyone was happy but me.

Because 2 cupcakes.

If someone else in the house had swallowed 2 cupcakes in quick succession, there would have been 20 minutes of mania, his metabolism would have run at its typical Usain Bolt speed, and then he’d chill out and we’d sing Kumbaya.

But my husband didn’t double-fist the cupcakes.

I did.

I thought and thought and thought about the cupcakes. Not because they were delicious. Because I’m a lot of things, but I’m not the girl who stands at her counter and eats 1 cupcake after another while she sympathizes with a cat she calls Girly Girl.

I thought, This is how it starts.

This is the beginning of a road I don’t want to go down.

A road that starts with two cupcakes…

…and it ends with Bob Harper.

And if there’s one thing on this earth more delicious than cupcakes, it’s Bob Harper.

So I thought about meeting Bob, and what our conversation would sound like.

Bob and I would be alone. With like 6 or 7 cameras, but mostly alone. We’d be outside the gym because Jillian would have just screamed at me to “GET OUT OF MY GYM!” And I’d be crying. Because why does she have to scream like that? Isn’t it humiliating enough that I have to be in spandex on the scale every week? Truly, Jillian, why?!

But Bob wouldn’t scream at me. He would wrap his sexy tattooed arm around me and say, “Girlfriend, tell me what’s going on.”

And I’d say, “Bob, it all started with the cupcakes.”

And he’d say, “Let’s talk about the cupcakes.”

And I’d lay my head on his shoulder, and that would send the camera people into a tizzy, and they would snap and gesticulate and mouth “cut that shit out!” and eventually I’d listen to them because my nose would start running, and if I’m leaving a trail of bodily fluids on Bob Harper, it’s not going to be snot.

I’d clear my throat and do my best not to glance at his creepy mustache. But it’s so thick and bushy I’d almost have to squint very hard so that I wouldn’t see it.

I’d look into his concerned blue eyes, and I’d say…

“Bob, I ate 2 cupcakes because…

I was hungry. And I had PMS. Also, They were from The Brunettes Bookshop Bakery. And, Bob, They. Taste. So. Good.”

And he’d nod and say, “OK. Those are the easy reasons. Why else did you eat the cupcakes?”

And I’d say, “I felt sorry for myself that week, Bob. I had hurt my back, and yoga didn’t help. And it hurt too much to run.”

And Bob would ask, “How did you hurt your back?”

And I’d say, “I tried to bring sexy back at my kids’ Homecoming by pairing heeled boots with my skinny jeans. Pony rides, hay rides, lemon sticks, and heeled boots…makes sense, doesn’t it?

And he’d say, “It makes perfect sense. Although I’d have gone with a flannel shirt and leather skinnies.”

And I’d say, “But I can’t rock the leather skinnies like you can, Bob.”

And he’d say, “Please tell me they were ankle booties.”

And I’d be ashamed and say, “Sadly, the boots that hurt my back were soooooo 2 seasons ago.”

And he’d make a face like he’d just caught a whiff of something nasty, and say, “Ewwww. Let’s change the subject, why else did you eat the cupcakes?”

And I’d say, “Because, when I was standing at the stove with one hand massaging my aching back and the other sauteing onions for dinner, I asked my husband to set the table for dinner. And do you know where he went, Bob? He climbed up on the roof of the house!”

And he’d look confused and ask, “Was he cleaning the gutters?”

And I’d raise my eyebrows and say, “One would think that, Bob. But, no. He was dressed as a witch.”

And he’d look puzzled and ask, “Why?”

And I’d say, “Because it was close to Halloween.”

And he’d ask, “And?”

And I’d say, “And he had the camera set up, and he yelled down from the roof to our oldest son, ‘don’t touch anything! Just press the button to take a picture!’”

And again Bob would ask, “Why?”

And I’d say, “Because that’s what he does, Bob!”

And Bob’s eyes would glaze over, and he’d murmur, “Oh, I love a man who likes to dress up.”

And I’d say, “Focus, Bob. Focus. I just wanted him to set the table for dinner.”

And he’d ask, “When you met him, was he the type to set the table for dinner?”

And I’d say, “No, Bob, he was the type to do naked stair dives down the fraternity house steps. You’re glazing over again, Bob. Focus.”

And he’d say, “Girlfriend, people don’t change. The guy who does naked stair dives…and that sounds super hot…doesn’t become the guy who sets the table for dinner just because you married him.”

And I’d say, “You’re right. He becomes the man who dresses up as a witch and stands on roof of your house at the exact moment the light is right because he woke up thinking this would be a cool picture.”

And he’d ask, “Well? Was it a good picture?”

And I’d say, “It was a great picture.”

Oh, yes he did.

Oh, yes he did.

He’d add, “And I bet it was a funny story too. And isn’t that what you do? Tell funny stories?”

And I’d say, “I tell stories, Bob. Yes. They happen to be funny because I married a man who dresses up like a witch and stands on the roof because he thinks it might make a good picture.”

And he’d say, “He’s giving you good material, girlfriend.”

And I’d say, “That’s one way to look at it, Bob.”

Bob would grow serious again, and ask, “Why else did you eat the cupcakes?”

And I’d take a deep breath and answer, “I ate the cupcakes because I am 3…OK 4…months late writing thank you cards to two different families who were brave and generous enough to open their homes to my  family this summer. And I’m beside myself that I haven’t gotten my act together before this, because I don’t want either of them to think that we didn’t appreciate every single second of their hospitality. And, in this crazy age when my home phone only rings when a solicitor calls or when one of my kids is sitting in the principal’s office, a handwritten thank you note takes so little effort but carries so much impact.

And speaking of thank you notes, I still owe thank you notes to friends who cooked for me when I was navigating Target on a motorized cart last May after I rolled my ankle on the jump rope my husband ordered for us but was actually designed for The Incredible Hulk.

And he’d say “What?”

And I’d say, “Don’t ask, Bob. Just watch the video. I ate the cupcakes because I still owe thank you notes to friends who cooked for me when the boys and I had the plague right before Christmas last year when my husband thought we were faking.

I ate the cupcakes because every time I get out of my car at school, I see someone and immediately realize I never replied to her email/text/phone call. I had every intention, but it just…poof…never happened.

When I stop to think about all the friends I haven’t replied to, I feel sad because I miss Ave. When the Verb was still a baby and I was nursing around the clock, I was forced to sit down. And I would use that time to catch up with her via text. And she made every day happier for me. And I miss that friendship.

I ate the cupcakes because the six of us have missed more parties than I can count because the evite still remains unanswered…sometimes unopened…in my email.

I ate the cupcakes because every time I think I’ll have time to write, somebody gets sick, has a field trip, has a day off, or asks that I attend a meeting. Or all of the above.

Because every time someone gets sick, has a field trip, has a day off, or asks that I attend a meeting, I can’t get dinner together.

And then we eat too much pizza.

And occasionally, and don’t fucking judge me, Bob, I take the kids to McDonald’s.”

And he’d shoot me a venomous look.

And I’d say, “Don’t look at me like that, Bob. I need your support right now.  And when I occasionally…and it’s rare, Bob, OK, it’s rare…take them to McDonald’s,  the Verb blows my cover by marching into kindergarten and dictating a story about being a scarecrow who gets chicken nuggets from McDonald’s.

And then that story makes it onto the wall of the building where all the parents walk their kids into school, so they can all read about how I poison my kids and their scarecrows with McDonald’s.”

Thanks for this, Verb. Truly.

Thanks for this, Verb. Truly.

And Bob would shrug and says, ““Well, that serves you right.”

And then I would shoot him a nasty look. But he’s so cute that I couldn’t be angry at him for long.

I’d take a deep breath and say, “I ate the cupcakes because every time I go to a meeting at school, they talk less about the test scores and more about raising our children to be resilient, and it all makes sense to me.

But I have to remember to let the kids solve their own problems more than I already do.

Because every time all four of the kids are on the trampoline together, my sweet Interrogator bursts into the house choking back tears.

And more often than not, I run outside to his aid.

Because he is my heart, Bob.

But I’m not teaching him resilience when I wag my finger and tell his brothers they will rue the day they made him cry.”

By now, Bob will have forgiven my McDonald’s indiscretion, so he’d put his arm around me and say, “You’re teaching them love and kindness. There’s nothing wrong with that. They’re still so young. The resilience will come.”

I’d take another breath and say, “I ate the cupcakes because whenever I login to Facebook and see that all of my writing friends are writing, it makes me feel panicked, and all I can think is, what about lean in??  Lean the fuck in, sisters, how about some fucking solidarity? Can’t we all be prolific at the same time?”

And Bob would say, “You’ve lost me. What do you mean?”

And I’d say, “I mean, I’m sitting in the fucking parking lot at Costco for the 3rd time in 2 weeks, Bob, and I want to write! But I can’t, Bob! I CAN’T WRITE! Because they keep eating, Bob. All the people in my house keep eating. And not the cupcakes. I’ve got the cupcakes covered. They eat all the other things. All the time they eat, eat, eat. So all the times I want to write, I’m spending food shopping.”

And he’d say, “Bethany, take care of your family first, and write when you feel inspired. And be happy for your friends when they carve time out to write. Writers need to write. It’s what they do.”

And I’d say, “That makes sense, Bob.”

And I’d say, “I ate the cupcakes because things are constantly falling through the cracks. Small things. But things. Every day I’m saying, ‘Shoot, I forgot,’. And I feel like I cannot get ahead of it. I cannot get organized. And I’m trying to be organized. But I’m double-fisting cupcakes, Bob. And I just know that all of the organized people in my life are going to be sending out their Christmas cards today and I’ll feel like they’re being organized AT me, Bob. Like I’m struggling to learn the steps to the Bunny Hop, and I’ll open up the mailbox, and BAM! They’re going all Michael Jackson’s Thriller on my ass!

And I know it’s not personal, Bob. It’s organized people being organized. Getting shit done and crossing it off the list. But I’m in a 2 cupcake kinda place right now, so it makes me feel like I’m failing. It makes me feel like I’m behind. Like I cannot get my shit together. And I hate that feeling, Bob.”

And he’d say, “That sounds like a lot of reasons to eat two cupcakes.”

And I’d say, “Hang on, Bob, I’m not finished yet. No one has ever accused me of being succinct.

I ate the cupcakes because here comes Christmas, and how the donkey hell are we going to pay for that?”

And he’d say, “Well, you’re the one who had 4 kids.”

And I’d say, “I know that, Bob. I married the guy who did naked stair dives down the fraternity house steps. We didn’t exactly think it through.

I ate the cupcakes because this is the year we sit down with the Kenyan and explain that the gifts that accompany Christmas are not exactly the handiwork of elves who work for a jolly man in a red suit…and with that simple explanation, we will extinguish some of the greatest mystery and magic of his childhood, and he will grow up just the tiniest bit in that moment. And it will happen right before our eyes. And he is perfect in all of his belief and innocence just the way he is, and I dread that I’ll be responsible for delivering the news that will lessen the wonder in his blue eyes.”

And then I’ll really be crying. The ugly cry. Because believe me when I say the Kenyan is one of the brightest lights in my life.

I’ll wipe my swollen, tear-streaked face on my Biggest Loser tee shirt, and say, “I ate the cupcakes because it’s another year of hanging stockings that don’t have airline tickets to Arizona in them. Because, as much as we’d love to see Little Sister over spring break, it costs 2 mortgage payments to fly the 6 of us back and forth across the country that particular week. And we aren’t in a position to do that.

I ate the cupcakes because 12 year olds suck. We just got out of diapers in my house! Everyone can swim! They all sleep through the night, and just when I think it’s going to be all the awesome stuff parenting is supposed to be, I have a 12 year old in the house. And most of the time it just sucks!

It’s brooding and a fuzzy upper lip and irritation at my existence that radiates from every pore of his hormonal body.

It’s stealing glances at him and my breath catching because I see glimpses of the man he’s growing into.

It’s listening to him and losing my shit because WHAT IS WITH THIS ATTITUDE?

It’s wanting to fast forward through this stage with him while simultaneously wanting to slam on the brakes because the next time he is nice to me, I’ll know he is being nice to cover up the fact that…like a typical fucking jackass teenager…he just snap chatted a picture of his naked torso to a girl I haven’t met.”

And Bob will ask, “What’s snap chat?”

And I’ll say, “Here, let’s have a tutorial. You take a naked picture of yourself, then you snap chat it to me, and it disappears in 10 seconds. And I would NEVER take a screen shot to look at every single day for the rest of my life, so don’t even sweat that. Never. I promise. Never.”

And he’ll say, “I practice yoga naked, so I’ll do it then.”

And I’ll say, “That’s perfect, Bob. Just perfect.”

And he’ll say, “Focus, Bethany.”

And I’ll say, “I ate the cupcakes because every time I walk into the dentist with my youngest son, they ask, ‘how did your son lose his tooth at such a young age?’ And I shrug, smile, and answer, ‘I don’t know. He’s the youngest of 4 boys.’ And that’s the truth, but they always continue to look at me like that’s not an answer. And I’m like, ‘We have a trampoline. And 4 boys. They are all boys. And they bounce. And they wrestle. Boys!’

And I feel judged. And I know they’re in the business of teeth, and my son is missing a tooth. But I’m his Mom. And I am in the business of putting my body, my dreams, my heart, my spirit, my entire existence into providing love, consistency, and a safe place for him and his brothers. And I don’t fucking know what happened to his tooth! I have 4 boys! And a trampoline! And 4 fucking boys! It’s yet another thing that slipped through the cracks, Bob. And, really, I just want the crowd at the dentist to say, ‘Damn, he looks cute without that front tooth.’ Is that too much to ask, Bob?”

And Bob would say, “I saw his picture, and I think he looks adorable without that front tooth.”

And I’d say, “Thank you, Bob. I knew I could count on you. I ate the cupcakes because my family just got kicked in the gut with a life-changing diagnosis, and not the kind that changes anyone’s life for the better. The kind where everyone cries. And expectations are shifted. And dreams are shattered.

I ate the cupcakes because I wrote some stuff. And so far nobody wants it. And I feel vulnerable. And what if maybe nobody ever wants it? That makes me feel gross and icky and uncomfortable. And like Michael Schaefer still doesn’t know I exist even though I loved him from afar for every. single. day. of grade school.”

And Bob would look at me, and say, “Just because Michael Schaefer didn’t acknowledge you doesn’t mean you’re not worth acknowledging. And just because nobody wants what you wrote yet doesn’t mean no one will ever want it. There’s a teaching opportunity here.”

And I’d say, “I know, Bob. Resilience. Re-mutha-fucking-silience. But it doesn’t sting any less.”

And I’d put my head on his shoulder again because he is basically not even gay at this point, and it feels like we are practically a couple.

And he’d whisper into my hair, “So, what are you going to do?”

And that’s when I’d seal the deal with my yoga talk. Because I know Bob loves yoga as much as he loves tattoos. And I love yoga almost as much as I love Bob.

I’d say, “You know, Bob, I was practicing yoga the other day, and my instructor said something that stuck with me. She said, ‘criticism is just noise.’”

And Bob would lift his leg and lay it over mine, and he’d say, “I love that.”

And I’d say, “I love it too. I’m criticizing myself, Bob. It’s too much noise. Too frequently.

I feel overwhelmed, Bob. And I’m allowing it to get in the way of all that’s good in my life.

I have a house that’s full. Full of life. And all the good and the bad that comes with it.

I have too much good in my life and I am too many things to too many people to allow all this noise.

So no more cupcakes for me, Bob.

I want to sing Kumbaya.”

And Bob would say, “Bethany, I’ve never said this to a woman, but I’d put my crotch-less leather chaps on for you any day of the week. And twice on Sundays, cowgirl.”

And I’d say, “Oh, Bob, I’d love to yoga you so hard that creepy mustache of yours falls right the fuck off.

But I’m in love with the witch standing on my roof.

Don’t look so sad.

If you’re ever in Philadelphia, let’s take a yoga class together.

And we can do all the partner handstands your heart desires.”

So I feel much better after my talk with Bob.

Even if it was just in my head.

All that. Because of two cupcakes.

 

Mom, Are You in There?

My kids begin spring break tomorrow. I’m excited that, for eleven glorious days, my counter will be void of the requisite eight snack and lunch bags that require nightly cleaning and packing.

I’m less excited about how many fakakta excuses the boys will create to interrupt my every-other-day-6-minutes-tops shower.

Mom, are you in there? I didn’t know where you were. I thought you left us.

Mom, are you in there? Where is Dad?

Mom, are you in there? What are you doing?

Mom, are you in there? Can I just please see where your penis is supposed to be?

Mom, are you in there? I have to poop.

Mom, are you in there? I’m hungry.

Mom, are you in there? I have to tell you something.

Mom, are you in there? What time is it?

Mom, are you in there? I have boogies in my nose. I need you to help me get them out.

Mom, are you in there? When will Dad be home from work? How many hours is that from now?

Mom, are you in there? Where are my socks?

Mom, are you in there? Can I play the iPad?

Mom, are you in there? When can I play the iPad?

Mom, are you in there? Is it my turn to play the iPad?

Mom, are you in there? When will you be finished?

Mom, are you in there? I want to be with you.

Mom, are you in there? I have to pee.

Mom, are you in there? My hiney is itchy.

Mom, are you in there? How many more days until my birthday?

Mom, are you in there? My brother breathed on me!

Mom, are you in there? My brother keeps looking at me!

Mom, are you in there? My brother farted on me!

Mom, are you in there? My brother killed me in Minecraft!

Momareyouinthere

Mom, are you in there? My brother hit me with the Minecraft pick ax!

Mom, are you in there? I can’t stop thinking about Minecraft! Can you help me stop thinking about Minecraft? Mom?

Mom, are you in there? I found a frisbee outside. It’s green! That’s my teacher’s favorite color! Mom! Can you hear me?

Mom, are you in there? I know you told me to stop asking for things all the time. And, I heard you. But can I just ask for one thing? Can we just have McDonald’s please? I’m not asking just for me. I’m asking for everybody. So, can we? Mom?

Mom, are you in there? You told me the yesterday before yesterday that I could have dessert after lunch. But you forgot to give me dessert. Can you give it to me now? I’ve been waiting so long. I really want dessert from the yesterday before yesterday, Mom!

I wonder how many new ways they’ll invent to interrupt my shower before school resumes on April 1st…

***

Today marks the last entry…the tenth…in our This is Childhood Series. Lindsey Mead writes an exquisite reflection on age 10. When Lindsey writes about her children, it takes my breath away. Today’s tribute is no exception…

Our This is Childhood writers are Aidan DonnelleyKristen Levithan, Nina Badzin, Galit Breen, Allison Slater Tate, Bethany MeyerTracy MorrisonAmanda Magee, Denise Ullem, and Lindsey Mead. I adore these women and was honored to be a voice in this series.

50 Shades…10 Years Later

50 Shades

I’m late to the party with 50 Shades of Grey. Unfashionably late. Back in May, when I wrote 50 Shades of Motherhood, I had yet to read the trilogy. I knew it only by reputation. I know it more intimately now. I read all three books from cover to cover in five days. No, the kids aren’t back in school. Admitted child neglect. But it rained a bit those days, so it’s not really child neglect.

After reading, I felt compelled to write a letter to Anastasia. You know, enlightening her about how her marriage will look a decade after the trilogy ends.

Dear Ana,

You and Christian have been the topic of discussion among housewives for the better part of a year. It’s true! Your story arouses interest. I’m writing to give some insight into a day in your life with Christian and your children in 10 years’ time. Take a peek into my crystal ball, Ana…

It’s 5:30AM and you awake with a start. Through a sleepy fog, you make out the sound of little feet running around in the bedroom next door. Little feet belonging to a boy who woke you three times last night because he couldn’t find the Lego he fell asleep with on his pillow pet. So you got out of bed to look for it. Every time. Dizzy from the light of that piece of crap Dream Lite the kids had to have, you found the Lego on the floor next to his bed. All three times. You were so fired up after returning to bed for the third time that it took you an hour to fall back to sleep. You sat up in bed and stared at Edward Christian, willing him to wake up. Wake up, jackass. Next time you’re going in to find the Lego. When I asked you to kiss him goodnight, did I not tell you no toys in bed? Douche.  You stared at him, radiating anger, for minutes. There’s no denying, he’s still uber hot. Super duper sexy hot. Except for the unfortunate ear hair. You read that right. Ear. Hair. It grows in tufts. Like a goddamn Chia Pet sprouting from his ears. It lowers his sexy factor considerably.

You got a cumulative 4 hours of sleep, and now the little one is prancing around in his room…the room he shares with his older brother. It’s only a matter of time before they’re both awake. Cranky. Demanding chocolate chip muffin tops before you’ve had a sip of coffee.

Christian. Maybe he’ll get up and tell the youngest one to go back to bed. You stretch, rub your eyes,  turn your head to ask him to intervene…only to find his side of the bed empty. Son of a bitch and his stupid triathlon training. He’s in the pool. Or on the bike. Or out for a run. You hope he’s in the pool because that’s one less pair of sweaty socks you’ll have to extract from the laundry basket and turn right side in (cringe) before washing. Is it too much to ask that he take them off and turn them right side in himself?

You sigh and tiptoe out of bed. You turn the bedroom doorknob slowly, and open the door a fraction at a time, hoping to creep downstairs and have one glorious moment of solitude before the kids discover you’re in the kitchen. CREEEEAAAAKKKK. Mother humper. Sounds like Christian never oiled the squeaky bedroom door with the WD40 you left on the counter for him. Add it to the list of grievances, Ana.

The door to the bedroom next to yours flies open.

Last Born: “Mommy! You’re awake! Can I have muffin tops?”

His brother shoves him aside and places himself directly in front of you.

Second to Last Born: “I want muffin tops too! And I want them first!” turning to his brother, “You got them first yesterday, so I want them first today!’

Last Born: “I want them first! I asked first, so I get them first!”

Second to Last Born: Screaming, “I do!”

Last Born: Screaming, “I do!”

You’re missing Mrs. Jones more than ever, Ana. Where is she, you wonder? You had to let her go. Shhh. Shhh. There, there. You had to. And the security team. You had to let them go too. The helicopter? Gone. Property in Aspen? Gone. Sweet little Audi R8? You sold it on Craigslist, girlfriend. You had to. Christian took that can’t lose attitude of his to Vegas…and lost something fierce. He lost the mother lode. Piece by piece over the course of 4 years. He’s no longer a big business mogul. No longer CEO of Grey Enterprises. I shit you not. He’s the manager of the local Circuit City. He couldn’t even land the gig at Best Buy. He was too domineering in the interview. Heehee. Get it? Domineering? You still have the house overlooking the Sound. And it’s still beautiful. Can’t beat that view, right? But the A/C is on the fritz, and the water heater is on its last legs. You fantasize about using the money you get from your tax return to finish the basement, but you know that money is better spent paying down that nasty credit card balance. All those trips to Target add up, Ana. $237 spent on a cart full of paper towels, fruit snacks, and who the hell knows what else. I’ve been there, sister.

You kiss your copper haired little boys on the tops of their heads and ask them to lower their voices before they wake their 3 older siblings. That’s right, Ana. You and Christian have 5 kids. 5! Boy, girl, girl, boy, boy. You started early. You had so much money. You were so in love. So full of hope. You had 5 babies in 6 years. And it has taken its toll. Your stomach has so many creases it looks like the origami set you gave Theo for his last birthday. And those boobs that Christian couldn’t get enough of? Deflated water balloons. Filled with kitty litter. Breastfeeding 5 kids will do that to a girl. And there is no hope for a boob job and tummy tuck in the near future. Not with the kids needing braces. Another sad reality, Ana. Christian’s baby Daddy must have had an awful set of chiclets. It skipped a generation, so Christian’s dazzling smile was spared, but it attacked your kids with a vengeance.

You usher the younger ones into the kitchen with you. Turn on the coffee and whip up some scrambled eggs for the three of you. Ana, I’m so thrilled to report that you finally have a healthy relationship with food. No more…let’s just call it what it is…eating disorder! You are a female.  By definition, a female doesn’t “just forget to eat”. Never. Never, ever, ever does a female “forget to eat”. You finally stopped that charade after the last baby and got yourself into therapy. Bravo, Ana. And, you look amazing! In clothes and with the right bra, that is. You know, because of the origami stomach and the boobs that resemble deflated water balloons. You can even pull off a bikini. But only if you’re standing up perfectly straight and taking shallow breaths. This never happens because you have 5 kids, a jealous husband, and no help. That jealous husband is prone to pouting, so you shoulder the weight of the kids most of the time. If for no other reason than to avoid Christian’s bullshit. And the good Dr. Flynn is WAY out of Mr. Circuit City’s price range, so now he grudgingly attends weekly anger management courses in the church basement.

Over the next hour, the older three kids traipse down the steps into the kitchen and greet you with half smiles, grunts, and nods. Just like every morning, you play the role of short order cook. Filling juice glasses, flipping pancakes, adding blueberries to some and chocolate chips to others. You’re just rinsing syrup off the last plate when Mr. Wonderful, home from his workout, bursts through the front door.

Christian, “There she is! My beautiful wife. Good morning, Mrs. Grey.”

Christian wraps his arms around you from behind. And, here it comes in 3, 2, 1….And gives you a boner to the back.  Never fails.

He looks out the window through the glass wall while you endure his, ahem, muscle flexing.

Christian: “Remember the picnics we used to have in that meadow, baby? Remember what we used to do on that blanket?” He pushes harder against your back. For Pete’s sake, man, give it a rest!

Ana: Smiling sweetly, “Maybe you should mount that lawnmower of yours and cut the grass in that meadow.” And, while you’re at it, take a weed wacker to that ear hair.

Christian: Wounded, “That’s our meadow, baby. Yours and mine. I don’t want to change a thing about it.” His eyes grow dark.

Oopsy daisy. Tread lightly, Ana.

Ana: “Oh, Christian, I love our meadow just as much as you do. But the kids are covered in mosquito bites and poison ivy. It’s not fair to them.”

His smoldering eyes turn accusatory, “You always choose them over me. You love them more. I knew this would happen.”

Blah, blah, and blahbitty blah blah. You knew this would happen. He warned you himself. You spend the better part of the next hour convincing him that you still love him unconditionally (which is total bullshit, by the way…you didn’t know unconditional love until you had kids, Ana), and pleading with him to get to work on time so they don’t dock his hourly pay.

When he finally leaves for work, you walk into your closet. Gone are the garter belts and thigh highs. And thank God for that, Ana. A garter belt’s worst enemy is a woman with a muffin top…and Claude’s not around for private training sessions anymore, so your muffin top is substantial. Don’t worry, you hide it well in sports bras, yoga pants, and layered long sleeve t-shirts. You grab your favorite yoga pants, which are on the floor in a ball from yesterday’s wearing. You struggle to pull on a sports bra, layer a few t-shirts, brush your teeth, pull your hair back with a scrunchy, and you’re set.

You round up the kids and pile them into the minivan. Yes, minivan. You can try to look hot behind the wheel of that pig, and you do try, Ana, you do. But it’s no use. It’s the least sexy vehicle on the planet. But it’s the only thing big enough to transport all those babies you crazy kids had. And its safety ratings are higher than the SUVs. You know what a stickler Christian is for safety ratings.

In an effort to drown out the sound of the kids bickering with one another in the two rows of seats behind you, you turn up the volume on the newest Justin Bieber song. Yep, he’s still around. And your daughters have mad crushes on him. You sit at a red light, staring blankly ahead, when a flash of white catches your eye. A girl pulls up alongside you in an Audi R8. A white one, just like the one Edward Christian bought for your 22nd birthday. She‘s beautiful. She has dark hair and appears not to be wearing yoga pants, a staple in your daily uniform. Sigh. She reminds me of me. You turn down the volume as you roll down your window.

Ana: Smiling, “Excuse me! I LOVE your car! I used to have the exact same one before I had kids!” More smiling.

Unimpressed, she rolls her eyes and goes straight for the jugular, “What are you, like…45?”

Why, you little…

Ana: Scowling, “Let me guess…Did your Daddy buy that car for you?”

Girl: “Whatever. Grandma.”

Just then, the light turns green. The spoiled brat in the white Audi peels out. I wish you wouldn’t, Ana, but you do it. You try to race her. Despite the fact that it takes you 3 solid minutes to get from 0 to 60 and you spend 2 of those minutes checking your rearview mirror for your transmission…still, you try to catch her. Oh, Ana, I do so admire your spunk. When you lose sight of her tail lights, you drive straight to the closest McDonald’s. You’re pissed. You’re frustrated. You hit that box of wine pretty hard last night, and you read on Pinterest that McDonald’s fries are the best cure for a hangover. And they are.

**Ana, my dear,  this is a glimpse of what your morning looks like a decade from now. You’re probably more shocked by this snapshot of your future than you were upon first entry into Christian’s red room of pain.  I know. You didn’t envision all of….this in your happily ever after. I’ll spare you the details of the rest of your day. Oh, except for one small nugget about dinner…

That macaroni and cheese that you made from scratch does not go over well with the kids. None of them appreciates the time you took to hand grate those four different cheeses. All five of them complain. One of them refuses to eat entirely. Two of them moan as they choke down a handful of bites. One gags. And one vomits. Right there at the dinner table. Not Phoebe. The younger daughter. She’s the middle child, but she is a drama queen, Ana. Dinnertime is a bitch. That’s just a daily fact of life with kids. You had visions of your kids praising that mac and cheese the way the Barefoot Contessa’s gay friends praise hers. Doesn’t happen, sweetheart. Valiant effort though, Ana! Keep fighting the good fight! They’ll be extra hungry for breakfast tomorrow, right? Oh, and one more teeny tiny detail…Christian is still sulking about the meadow conversation, so he purposely farts around at work. By the time he arrives home, the crunchy stuffing on top of his mac and cheese has gone stale. Ungrateful bastard.

Let’s fast forward through bedtime. Trust me, you’re not ready for a glimpse of that shit show.

It’s the end of the evening. The kids are in bed. Finally. Christian is still jealous. He’s still controlling. He’s insecure. He’s the neediest one in the house. He’s moody. The man needs a boatload of therapy, Ana. In spite of all that, you still love him. And you can’t stay mad at him for long. Even now, after so many years.

After putting your 16 hour day with the kids, you climb into bed next to him. In an effort to reconnect, and to assure him he’s loved, you initiate sex. You’re speaking his language so, naturally, he responds. Please can this be a quickie, please just a quickie, I think at least one of the kids is still awake, please a quickie.

He leans back, searching your face. The anger has left his eyes. Christian is back. You’re forgiven. He moves in to kiss you again.

Wait a minute, am I snack mom tomorrow? I swore it was next week, but it might be tomorrow! And I promised Theo I’d make homemade cookies. He told me 4 times that Jack’s Mom always sends in homemade cookies for snack. That overachieving bitch.

Christian: “Baby, I have a surprise for you…”

Oh, shit. No quickie. How the hell long will this take? I hope I don’t forget about the cookies.

Ana: “Oh, a surprise?”

Cookies, cookies, cookies, cookies…

Christian nods and pulls an array of sex toys out from under his pillow.

Son of a bitch, I hid that shit in trouser socks! Then I put the socks in the foot of my Christmas stocking. Then I put my Christmas stocking in a vacuum sealed plastic bin in the attic. Then I stacked 5 bins on top of that bin. Then I hid the key to the attic and threw out the spare key. Can I get nothing past this man?!

Christian: “Naughty girl hid the toys. She needs a spanking.”

Aw, fuck. Goodnight.

Yep, Christian is back. He’s still hot. Even with the ear hair. You love him. You always will. You love your family.

Embrace your minivan, Ana. Rock your yoga pants. Keep making those dinners from scratch. Continue your healthy relationship with food. Push Christian to cut that lawn in the meadow. Insist he give up that spanking bullshit. Maybe start a book club. Join Facebook. Get on Twitter. Drink margaritas with your girlfriends. Delight in the smell of your kids every night when you go into their rooms to kiss them goodnight. Don’t sweat the small stuff, Ana. This is real life. It’s hard. It’s often monotonous, occasionally punctuated by moments of pure magic. You’ve got a good thing. Hang onto it.

Oh, and first thing tomorrow morning, bury those toys in the garbage can. Under a week’s worth of coffee grinds.

You’re welcome:)

This piece appeared in the Parents section of the Huffington Post on August 22, 2012.