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My New Year’s resolution is in the mail

Kathy TullyOur Christmas tree is down. The string of tiny white lights outside, around our front door (that I would have liked to have up for just one more week, thank you) are stripped. The once beautifully wrapped presents of pent-up surprise are put away.

I’m staring at a stack of 110 Christmas cards, and 110 white envelopes, piled high on my front hall table. Hard as I try to pep myself into writing them, it’s hard. Christmas is over. The radio station that has been playing Christmas music 24/7 since before Thanksgiving has gone back to playing pop hits. Sales have emptied aisles of stores’ shelves.

Exhaling a deep, resigned sigh, I stare at our stack of unwritten cards.

Every year, I think — no, I swear to myself — THIS IS GONNA BE THE YEAR! This year, we, not they, will be the oh-so-obnoxiously-early card senders. Yes, for once, we — not they — will be the ones who get cards in the mail before Thanksgiving Day. This year, it will be our family and friends who receive the perfect picture card of our perfect family

This year, it will be they — not us — who will open OUR card before they’ve even eaten their lunch of turkey leftovers, their stomachs squelching the sinking feeling that, only one day after Thanksgiving, the Christmas circus train has left the station and they — not us — have missed it.

Why even bother, I ask myself in this post-holiday fog? Why not let it all go, the overboard decorations, inside and outside the house? Reconstructing my mother’s Christmas village on a bed of white fluffy cotton “snow?” Participating in the outrageously fun annual Christmas cookie swap where I forget, until the night before, that in order to be admitted entrance, I must come bearing 13 to 15 dozen cookies of one cookie type in order to receive the same amount back of a wide-ranging assortment?

This year, I mean, last year, I started out strong.

Every year, I try.

After Halloween, I popped into the post office and bought sheets of stamps bearing the Madonna and baby Jesus. I gathered enough wintry-themed return address labels, checked my list twice of family, friends and others. This year, I’d be oh-so-ready.

When an online “deal” for luxurious cards showed up in my e-mail, I clicked “yes!” A disclaimer popped up: To receive cards before Dec. 24, the order would need to be placed by Dec. 5.

No problem.

Eschewing my annual, one-hour, late-night trip to the local big-box pharmacy chain, I designed online my fancy cards to be printed on heavy stock paper. Dec. 5, I hit “send.” Visions of friends and far-flung family seeing the early postmark date — anything before Dec. 24 — danced in my head.

Then the mad holiday rush began: School recitals, not one but two daughters’ birthday parties, various Christmas parties, cookie parties (I cheated. My husband made the batter), fighting a two-week cold, hosting a sit-down Christmas dinner, Boxing Day parties, out-of-state family visiting for the week, an annual Yankee swap/sleepover on New Year’s Eve.

We survived it all. Vacation’s over, school’s back in session.

But Christmas isn’t really over, as Father James Field,  my late pastor, used to say from his pulpit. The Christmas season extends, he’d tell us, not just to Little Christmas/the Feast of the Epiphany, (this year, Jan. 6), but an additional week! Christmas seasons ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This year, that’s Sunday, Jan. 12.

Father Field would say (looking pointedly to me, I always thought) that, for anyone berating themselves for getting their cards out late, there was still time. Without having to go to confession, we late mailers received, if not forgiveness, a reprieve. Feeling re-energized, I’d leave church, make a pot of tea and write them all out, confident in my knowledge (even smugly superior) that I was still “on time.”

My friends and family have come to expect no less. This isn’t the first time we’ve been late getting cards out. At one Boxing Day party I told our English friend, Rob, that our cards would once again be late. “Oh, I look forward to getting your cards, Kathy. When will they be out? April?” We laughed.

Secretly, I enjoy sending our cards out late, knowing they will get more attention, not crushed in the bushels of mail crammed during Christmas week. And I enjoy thinking about each person I write to, adding a special note on their card.

Pulling out our tattered address book, I pour myself a fresh cup of coffee, turn on some jazz and begin.

As I write, one thought runs through my head like the Nasdaq sign in New York City’s Times Square: Just wait till next year, I mean, this year. I’m gonna be on time.

Consider it my New Year’s resolution.

— Kathy Shiels Tully

Kathy Shiels Tully launched two dreams — becoming a writer and getting married — by proposing to her then-boyfriend on The Boston Herald‘s op-ed page on Leap Day 1996.  Today, she’s a regular correspondent for The Boston Globe and Boston Globe Magazine, writing about wide-ranging topics, plus travel stories, essays, people profiles (Carly Simon!) and restaurant reviews. Her stories also appear in national and regional magazines, and Chicken Soup for the Soul and Thin Thread books. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and their two dreams, daughters Bridget and Katie.

Facing reality

Kathy RadiganThe other day I was in the middle of my morning routine of packing snacks, reminding people to wear underwear and ordering them to brush their teeth, when I happened to see it, my special needs daughter’s red take-home folder.

Inside the folder, along with the words she worked on that day and drawings of the weather for her calendar, was the all-too-familiar Parent Intake Form along with a note:

Kathy, I’m sending home another form for you to fill out. We know this can be difficult, but since Lizzy is now 12, we are required by law to collect this information. If you have any questions or need help, please contact me or the school psychologist. Thank you.

I felt guilty that I put it off. I’ve always done my best to face my children’s issues head on, and I pride myself on being acknowledged as a parent who is always on my game.

Truth be told, I hate these forms.

I’ve never been great at defining my children in a sentence or two or stating the goals I wanted them to reach. What I really wanted was to have kids who didn’t have to work so hard to reach milestones that others did with ease.

I looked down at the form and started to read the questions asking me to list my daughter’s strengths and weaknesses and my hopes for her future.

My mind went back five years ago, when I had to fill out another form.

This time it was for my then 3-year-old son. His learning issues are much less severe than Lizzy’s, but he was attending the same special needs preschool that she did. We loved that the school had a variety of programs for kids with issues ranging from speech delays, like Peter had, to helping children with much more severe developmental delays and disorders.

The school had become a “second home” in some ways, and I was friendly with most of the teachers, therapists and administrators.

At the time Lizzy happened to be going through an extremely difficult period. My days had been spent taking her back and forth to different specialists in an attempt to finally get a name for the disorder that was wreaking so much havoc on her.

I was pushed to my limit and stressed out to the max.

As I dropped Peter off at his class, the head of his program cornered me in the hallway and told me that I had yet to fill out another form for Peter.

I sort of lost it.

I didn’t yell, or get angry at the woman. I knew she was only doing her job. But in my stressed-out state of mind, I quickly filled out the familiar form in a way that I often joked I would to the different teachers, therapists and social workers that I had known in my many years of being a mom to special needs kids.

If memory serves me it went something like this:

What are the speech goals you are hoping your child obtains in the next three months?

Well, I would like Peter to be able to recite the Gettysburg Address, but if he’s only able to recite one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, I will be happy.

What are the fine motor skills you are hoping your child will reach in the next three months?

It would be great if Peter could rewire the house so we could install central air.

What are the educational goals you are hoping your child will reach in the next three months?

We would be thrilled if Peter could start on physics this year, but we will be just as happy if he starts calculus.

I continued in this vein for the remainder of the form and submitted it. I later heard that the head of preschool program was not amused. Fortunately my school district, the ones that the form had to be submitted to, knew me and my family well. They were familiar with all we were going through and found my answers funny.

I have to admit that the thought crossed my mind to do a repeat performance with this new form.

After all what did they want to learn from me? Did they want to know that I realized that my daughter’s issues are severe? Do they want me to admit that I know she will not have the same bright future that her brothers will have?

I know.

Lizzy may not have a concrete diagnosis, but the brain damage that has easily been detected in five MRIs does more than just affect her development and speech. Lizzy also suffers from mental illness that makes staying in reality a real struggle.

There are days she’s able to follow directions and even read a bit. Twenty-four hours later, she is virtually unresponsive.

I honestly have no idea what type of program will be best for her when she is an adult.  From the way things stand now, I know that she will probably need a lot of help and that she will never live on her own.

I start filling out the form. Giving the answers I know are expected of me.

Then I get to the last question:

What type of job has your child said they would like, or has shown an interest in?

I write down the most truthful answer I can:

Lizzy would like to be a princess, but we are aware that there are limited positions available at this time. We do believe, though, that if anyone can pull it off, she can.

— Kathy Radigan

Kathy Radigan is a writer, blogger, social media addict, mom to three, wife to one and owner of a possessed appliance. She posts a weekly essay each Sunday on her blog,  My dishwasher’s possessed!, and has had her writing featured on BlogHer and Cribster. She’s also a contributing author in Sunshine After the Storm: a survival guide for the grieving mother and The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female Friendship. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google +

The cupcake diet

christinaantusI recently read an article by Jillian Michaels that talked about the difficulty of dropping vanity pounds. Vanity pounds are the last few pounds we want to lose, but our bodies don’t think we need to lose. Because we’re made for “survival.” Not appeal. If we were vehicles, we’d be Winnebagos. “Survival” is what keeps love handles loving just a little longer and holding just a little tighter.

You never know when you’ll only be one cupcake away from starvation. Those vanity pounds could be the ticket to making it to 16th place on “Survivor.” Sure, you won’t get to win the million dollars, but you do get $2,500 and scurvy.

I’ve discovered that since turning 35 and having children, vanity pounds appear in foreign places where fat never went when I was 20. Though I greatly appreciate the warming insulation for winter, the summer reveal is just too much for my sense of self. And anyone else who can see.

Sadly the only way to lose those pounds is good old-fashioned diet and exercise. Of course, no one likes to diet. Dieting is almost as bad as being hit in the face by a 10-pound goose while riding a roller coaster. Let’s be honest. Diet food is unrealistic and crazy. Besides rabbits and fashion models, who fills up on lettuce? Everybody knows dieters can’t have dressing with a salad (calories). Don’t even think about croutons or bacon bits. If it has flavor, it’s out. You just have to suck it up and eat your pile of weeds. Using only imagination for garnish.

I find exercising is more realistic than dieting. But, it’s also a lot more deceiving because I feel thinner after a workout. Even though I’m not. After all, using the elliptical for an hour is a lot more work than eating an entire bag of Spicy Doritos in one sitting. So, shouldn’t I be rewarded for my efforts? Instantly? Every time I finish a workout, I feel immediate results are in order. So, I stand there and wait. Then, when no fat falls off me and onto the floor, I get discouraged and eat 50 rice cakes. Because rice cakes are healthy, and healthy is skinny. Being skinny is supposed to taste like hungry.

I find these excess pounds to be annoying, frustrating and downright aggravating. In order to move forward, I go through the following steps:

1. Wallow in self pity and eat a cupcake.

2. Get motivated to lose vanity weight. But enjoy one last cupcake before starting.

3. Set up a diet and exercise plan that highlights milestones. So I can reward myself at each checkpoint with a cupcake.

Now, I’m not a personal trainer. If I were, I’d be the only personal trainer who would not only encourage you to eat a Blizzard, but also drive you to Dairy Queen and have one with you. Because I believe in indulgence.

This is why I’m a firm believer in the cupcake diet.

What is the cupcake diet?
The cupcake diet is a sweet, fluffy, high-calorie, delicious disappointment.

How does it work?
I don’t diet. I just cut back on the amount of food I eat. Then, reward my successes with a snippet of cupcake. So, if I take a small piece of cupcake, versus inhaling the whole cupcake in a single bite, I find that I don’t crave them as often.

What do you do when you aren’t on the cupcake diet?
I reward myself with a whole cake. Which is really just an overweight cupcake, if you think about it.

How do you sell yourself on this crap?
With a lot of denial and fluff. I prefer vanilla or buttercream fluff.

How can I also sell myself on this crap?
Just remember that a quarter of a cupcake doesn’t taste as good as a whole cupcake. It does, however, taste better than no cupcake. Since a quarter of a cupcake isn’t a whole cupcake, you can enjoy it without the guilt or calories of the other three pieces.

So go ahead and have a cupcake.

But just a bit.

Enjoy it.

If you get hit in the face by a gigantic bird, you’ll be glad you did.

— Christina Antus

Christina Antus lives in colorful Colorado with her husband, two daughters and grossly over-exaggerated cat. After the birth of her first daughter, she traded her career in multimedia/web design for a full-time role at home with her kids. These days she’s project managed by two toddlers who have high standards and expectations for Play-Doh sculptures, couch forts and tea parties. When she’s not forgetting to feed the goldfish, neglecting laundry or avoiding the grocery store, she’s writing and making mediocre meals for her family. You can find her hiding in the closet, eating candy at www.raisinsandgoldfish.com.

Adult and battery

Bob Niles“A, B, c…g…r….y….next time won’t….sing with me.”

How was I to know it was this that needed new batteries? I pretty much know the alphabet, so I don’t play with the “Old McDonald Alphabet Barn.”

But she (job creator and wife) writes this cryptic message on a piece of paper, “Replace the batteries I’ve been bugging you about for the last three months ya dumb bottom!” It was no. 137 in the once named “HoneyDo” jar. But after 24 years of marriage, it’s been renamed to something a little more direct with a slang term for bottom as myself. The “Get Up And Do It You Dumb A– (Bottom)” jar.

It took two AA batteries to drive this farmyard tool of alphabetic knowledge. Two little cylinders the size of….well, small batteries (I was always bad at analogies). This toy hase taught all four of my grandkids the early basics of the English written language.

Absolutely amazing if you think about it.

I started school, as probably most of the rest of you did, before “Sesame Street,” not knowing the building blocks of the written word. The basic A-Z was an unknown. Not my mother, father, strange aunt, older brother or The Friendly Giant taught me the “ABC” song. Mom, Dad and older brother had their own problems. Strange aunt — well, strange says it all. And the giant, although a giant, he certainly wasn’t friendly. He had a rooster stuffed in a bag nailed to the wall!

These two little batteries along with a plastic barn and 23 plastic letters (Y, G and B disappeared under the fridge) taught all four grandkids the alphabet. It sang out the “ABC” song and had the capability of pronouncing each letter when placed in the hayloft. The 23 singing capital letters are all magnetically smattered across the aforementioned fridge. In groups of three and four, they hold crayon drawings of a princess and the ever-so-flattering drawings of one’s self by a 3-year-old.  She must think I’m a genius because she draws my head so big. I think I’ll keep this one; it might come in handy during the next argument with the wife.

How can I just toss or recycle these two batteries? They should be prized and presented for all to see. For someday,  I can say “Kids, this is what taught you the alphabet. These two insignificant cylinders of positive and negative polarity had the sole purpose of teaching each of you the letters from A-Z” — and have succeeded where strange Aunt Fizzy couldn’t.

These two AA batteries (no meetings required) can’t be tossed as play batteries that drive toys. Or thrown away with stupid batteries that just operate lights on and off. Or tossed out with the flash batteries that just go “DAH!” And then wait to go “DAH!” again. They can’t die with the snobby camera batteries that have traveled and been to all the best parties and vacation spots. Or placed among the little oddity batteries so tiny that hide in expensive watches and make size “AA” look so big and freakish.battery sketch

No, I say! Not my AA friends! They shall remain forever.

She’s standing behind me, isn’t she?

“Will you JUST replace the battery!” she suggests. “You’ve been at this for 52 minutes and haven’t done a thing! Now get moving!” Again suggests, “Jobs 138 and 140 are waiting. You can do 139 when you take your bath. And might I suggest you close the curtains or put some pants on while doing all this.”

“Yes, dear,” was my only reply. Should have shown her my genius picture.

I dug deeper into the toolbox looking for a tiny Phillips screwdriver with which to free my two little double A friends. But why? We all know the alphabet! They’re not going to play with this anymore. Job done, I say!

Think I’ll start on job 139 and fill the tub.

—  Bob Niles

Bob Niles, who answers to Robert, Bobby, Dad, Grandpa, Unit No.2 (his Dad could never remember all the children’s names) honey and super hero, is new to writing but not to storytelling. “I like to make people laugh and to think, with a secret desire make them dance and send me untraceable $100 bills in the mail,” says the happily married, retired father and grandpa from Richmond in British Columbia, Canada. He blogs at superiordribble.blogspot.com.

Redefining professionalism

Steve EskewAs the former owner of a grocery store, I suppose I tend to be particularly impatient with certain klutzes who’ve managed to land a job as a checkout clerk, an honorable position, to be sure.

Serving as judge and jury, I blame their incompetency not on the clerks themselves but on the clerks’ trainers. Contrary to the assumptions of many managers, most kids don’t automatically know how to handle a transaction in a professional manner. Ya gotta actually train the little squirts.

I can just imagine how a number of modern trainers must conduct orientations for clerks nowadays. Ahem. It would sound something like this: “Okie-dokie, team players, keep this in mind: customers function solely as the archenemy of checkout clerks. Therefore, when these scum-bags show their faces at your counter, give them your most contemptuous sneer. They have, after all, interrupted you. Perhaps you were having a sweet conversation with a colleague or maybe filing your nails.

“While maintaining your expression of caustic disgust, curtly commence slamming their merchandise through the scanner. You should then fake a sudden minor mood swing. You’ve been working your tail off. You’ve just slammed five items through the scanner. Slow down a bit. Consider how his job is really cutting into your day. Do your thing. Scowl. Show extraordinary interest in some invisible object somewhere out the window in outer space.

“Look at neither the merchandise nor the scanner. As the customer shows impatience, have some fun with these fools. Continue to stare out the window trancelike, then slowly, ever so slowly, take several aimless swings at the scanner.

“Finally, when you’re darn good and ready, finish the transaction with an air of supreme and brutal dismissal. But as you hastily hand the customer her or his change, be absolutely certain to utter the words, ‘There ya go.’ If the customer thanks you, try to eek out a frowning smile with a pronounced expression of exhaustion. And if the customer dares not thank you for their change, balance the transaction as you began it. Give the lowlife swine your best sneer.”

For my money, professionalism isn’t synonymous with perfectionism. Professionalism simply means performing as best you can, pushing against indifference and mediocrity. Anything less than your best should be regarded as unacceptable. Shouldn’t we go that extra mile and actually strain our little selves?

As for me, I’ve developed an insatiable attraction for automatic scanners, the artificial intelligence that welcomes me not with a sneer but perhaps with an invisible smirk. Assuming that I’m infinitely ignorant, it instructs me on how to scan my own items, but at least it uses the word “please.” I thought that word had all but disappeared from the lexicon. In lieu of a human handing me my paper money, coins and receipt in one wad, the machine distributes each of those separately and then utters those two rarely spoken words in retailing: Thank you.

Suddenly, I feel so special.

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.

Channeling Erma

Lynda ZielinksiDear Erma,

It’s that time again. The Erma Bombeck Contest. I’ve got nothing.

I need your help. No, you don’t know me, but we were practically neighbors. You were cranking out columns in Dayton; I was devouring them in Columbus. Close enough. I had your words magnetized to my refrigerator door:

In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.

Funny! Then. I hate to say it, but these days a joke like that could get you slammed. Is she making light of yo-yo dieting? A heavy topic. (Yes, I’m not above using puns.) Let me tell you, it’s hard being a humor writer now. I’m wondering if I should even enter the contest. This would be my third shot at it.

I am qualified. I read everything you ever wrote. Back when the kids were little and napping I’d grab a soup-sized cup of oolong tea, plop on the sofa and read. That was afternoon delight. I remember:

The only reason I would take up jogging is so I could hear heavy breathing again.

Funny! I had to swallow hard to keep tea from squirting out my nose.

If only the members of my writers group had the same problem. They sip with complete composure when reading my offering. One little chortle would be balm to the wound inflicted by that grim bunch, those mirthless uber-critics. (Most of them unpublished, let me add.)  I run the gauntlet of their verbal blows:

“Tense shifts. Confusing pronouns. Too many hyphens.” And finally: “Is this a story? It doesn’t have a plot!”

I respond with the most humiliating words a humor writer can utter:

It’s supposed to be funny.”

Writing can be unnerving. You know. You almost gave up writing once when some “academia nut” didn’t get you. But we did. You understood us. You kept us sane. You said:

Housework done right will kill you.

“Ain’t that the truth,” we answered.

Writers don’t go in for plain truth telling. They go for spin and glitz. Shock and sensation. At most, they want to be “compelling.”

I’m learning. There’s no excuse not to, with all the Internet programs, magazines and how-to-books out there. They make it sound easy. “We’ve helped thousands stand out from the crowd, get their unique voices heard!” (Huh?) “Unleash the muse! Push the boundaries! Stretch the envelope!” (How about avoiding the cliché?)

I found a book that promised to take the mystery out of grammar. Why not? Strunk and White are dead, after all. They won’t be asking: “Mystery? What?”

Publishers encourage writers to join critique groups. I understand. What better way to create a need for those how-to books? I’ve bought a few myself. Some are helpful. But why are the humor books so morose? Now there’s a mystery.

I joined an elite writers group, all MFA’s. These are the erudite elbows I need to rub, I figured. A young man read his story. It’s about rubbing a toe. No, it doesn’t lead to anything risqué. Sorry. It’s about a father and young son. The pair are chatting amicably in the bathroom, when suddenly, inexplicably, the father implodes, leaving nothing behind but his big toe. (I think it was the right. Not sure.)

The toe lies on the bathroom floor. The son picks it up. He sticks it in his pant pocket and, without telling anyone, carries it everywhere, perhaps as a good luck memento, like a rabbit’s foot. As the tale continues the boy not only carries the toe he conceals, he also clutches, cuddles, claws and caresses it. Maybe the kid carried around a thesaurus, too. I don’t know. I stopped listening.

Everyone loved it.

“Fresh.” “Evocative.” “Powerful.” And, of course: “Compelling!”

I got distracted, Erma. I mean, where was the boy’s mother? I could understand not noticing a missing father. But a bloody stain on a kid’s pocket! Who wouldn’t notice that?

Didn’t the boy leave the nasty thing lying around sometimes? Maybe on his dresser or under the bed? You know how kids are.

I dropped out.

I know you stopped writing once, too, but then that special man came along, someone you admired and respected, who said the three magic words you longed to hear. (No, not those words.)

“You can write!”

That’s all it took. You wrote 15 books and received numerous honorary degrees.  Plus you traveled coast to coast promoting the Equal Rights Amendment.

There’s something you couldn’t get away with now, not in these times. Your agent wouldn’t let you. He’d wail: “Erma Bombeck, you’re a brand name! You’re an icon. Don’t do this to me! It’s bad enough you won’t endorse products.”

Yes, you were a class act. These days it’s all about money. They’d make you promote grass seeds and septic tanks. But now to the point: Please send some good vibes my way. There’s still time. I’ll come up with something compellingly funny. Maybe I’ll win, get published, get a byline or make enough to buy more how-to books.

Thanks Erma — for everything.

— Lynda Zielinski

Lynda Zielinksi has switched careers frequently in what may appear to be a determined effort to spiral downward in remuneration. A former teacher, social worker and antiques dealer, she has finally hit bottom — a free-lancer. This year she is taking a stab at the Erma Bombeck writing contest. Her third. Poor thing, she just keeps at it. Wish her luck.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight

Linda WolffSitting at 36,000 feet above ground is not my favorite place to be. It takes a lot to get me airborne. The 24 hours before any flight is filled with tremendous anxiety and a need to finish every project ever imagined. I’m like a whirling dervish, coordinating and packing my tiny carry-on at the very last possible minute, because only that kind of frenzy can take my mind off the F word — Flying.

Don’t get me wrong — I love to travel. I just hate the crowds and commotion of airports, and flying in general. Long lines, stripping down and unpacking for TSA, and finding my “terminal” add to my already heightened anxiety. Terminal? Couldn’t they have thought that one out just a minute or two longer and used a more life-affirming word instead?

Before I board the plane I have my rituals. I kiss the finger tips on my right hand and press them to the outside of the plane as I cross the threshold. It looks like I’m petting the plane. Once inside, I give a quick peek into the cockpit to make sure the pilots look busy, fit and sober.

Then, I find my seat and immediately take out my stash of glossy magazines, snack bag and my low-dose Xanax, which I break into teeny-tiny pieces so I can pop them into my mouth like Tic-Tacs at the first sign of turbulence. I take my first one before takeoff as a preemptive strike. I do this until I’m feeling good — not Kristin Wiig in “Bridesmaids” feeling good — but just enough to take the edge off. Of course, I’m still in control, because you never know, they might need me to help fly the plane.

When the pilot comes on PA system and says “Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight,” I almost laugh out loud. Yeah, right! Just get me there in one piece I whisper under my breath. Years ago, I didn’t self medicate. I would sit there crying silently, paralyzed with fear, with a death grip on the armrests or the unlucky person next to me. Naturally, I did not want my kids to see me like this or pass my fear onto them or have a heart attack from the stress. Xanax became my trusty travel companion.

So as soon as the flight attendant says it’s safe to do so, I plug the iPod into my ears, listen to soothing music and I pray — especially if there is turbulence — because at this point, a little divine intervention couldn’t hurt. I also keep an eye on the flight attendants’ faces to judge how we’re faring.

When we hit the halfway mark on a flight, something inside me signals we’re home-free, because any flight that’s half over means they’ve pretty much got a handle (no pun intended) on what they’re doing by now. (I’m sure you can understand the deep logic in that.) You can almost hear me squeal, “Yay, we’re going to make it!” I become positively giddy. If I’m listening to music, there may actually be some shoulder bobbing at this point. I might even look out the window and marvel at the fluffy clouds and clear blue sky and wonder if this is what heaven looks like. I blame the euphoria on the fact I’m still alive. (And clearly, the Xanax has kicked in.)

Like a lot of women, I didn’t become afraid of flying until I became a mom. Yes, I know statistics show that flying is safer than driving, and air travel is currently the safest it’s ever been, but somehow that is lost on me while trapped in a small space at 36,000 feet.

If flying is so safe, then why are people always saying “Safe travels!”? Just say “See ya” or give me a wave, and pass me the Xanax.

— Linda Wolff

Linda Wolff writes the blog Carpool Goddess where she shares her adventures from carpool to empty nest. She no longer drives carpool, but that’s our little secret. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Shine, Scary Mommy, Better After 50, Generation Fabulous and others. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Glow sticks

Stacia EllermeierOne day after daycare/work/school there was a package at our door for the kids. They get all kinds of goodies, but nana got super points that day for the glow sticks. Kids love this crap. A tube that glows. Who thinks of this stuff?!

The kids were stinking up something fierce so I thought it would be fun to do something I found on Pinterest, interwebs or somewhere I can’t remember where. You take the glow sticks into the bath and turn out the lights.

Water + glow sticks = SUPA FUN TIMES!

I threw Ava and EZ in the bathtub in the bathroom that we never use because all the crap is upstairs — like towels and soap. I wasn’t thinking, man. I was going on autopilot because “THEY ARE GOING TO LOOOOVE THIS. THIS IS THE COOLEST IDEA EVER!!! LOOK AT ME BEING SPONTANEOUS!”

EZ bumped the faucet handle while I was helping Ava got undressed, and he started screaming. Ice cold water was pouring into the tub and EZ was hauling ass out by himself. He was only two and couldn’t get out without flinging water all over. Freezing cold water was everywhere.

I finally get the water right and throw gently place them back in the tub. EZ was still screaming to get out but “YOU ARE GOING TO LOOOVE THIS… so stay in kid.” I gave them the glow sticks and warned them that I’m turning out the lights.

I warned them! Do they listen? Sigh.

EZ started to scream even louder, which made Ava scream. Both were trying to get out of the tub, and there was even more water on the floor. I convinced Ava to stay in because “I PROMISE TO NOT TURN OFF THE LIGHTS AGAIN… JEEZ!”

I dried EZ off with a hand towel and let him roam naked while I went to get him a diaper and pajamas. I’m gone for maybe 10 seconds and find that EZ peed on the floor in the hallway. Are you serious?

That is exactly when Ava decided she wanted out of the tub because she bit into one of the glow sticks and it was leaking everywhere. “Mother of ?%@*!”

I had to run back upstairs to get her a towel and clothes, run back down, throw her the towel, wrangle EZ into a diaper. So help me, God, if you poop on the floor…

That’s when I checked out of being a parent for the night. We had popcorn for dinner and watched a movie. THAT is why I’m not a spontaneous person. It wrecks my damn nerves. I am a planner and proud of it!

— Stacia Ellermeier

Stacia Ellermeier is a self-awarded mother-of-the-year and Target-aholic, who regularly writes on her blog Dried-on Milk. She is a graphic designer, mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister and is one crazy chick who likes to find humor in the most mundane things in life. Stacia was a 2013 Blogger Idol Top 4 finalist. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Reflections of Erma