Slightly Insane Mom

"All mothers are slightly insane." –J.D. Salinger
October 30th, 2014

Party Planning Hell: A Scary Halloween Tale, Mom-Style

Against my better judgment, I volunteered to be a party mom for Sunshine’s class Halloween party. The first indication I had that this event was Not Your Mother’s Halloween Party was the email from the “Party Planning Committee Chair,” notifying me that I was to attend the Official Halloween Party Planning Meeting in the Cafeteria on Some Date I Don’t Remember Because I Have Three Kids.

Now, let me preface this whole thing with a little reminiscence. Do you remember classroom Halloween parties in the 80s? You wore your costume to school. A basic Level 1 costume was some sort of polyester getup your parents bought at Walgreens. It included a mask with tiny slits to see and even tinier slits to breathe. Level 2 involved full face paint, probably containing some variety of carcinogens, and possibly fake teeth. Level 3, the Gold Level, was the Homemade By Moms Who Could Actually Sew costume, the Costume That Also Involves an Elaborate Hairdo Sprayed with Rave or AquaNet, or the Costume Constructed from Cardboard and Spray Paint Made By a Dad with Engineering Skills. (There were also a few kids with “participation ribbon” costumes. You know, the ones who phoned it in with a “hobo” costume with a flannel shirt and a bandana on a stick, or a “bum” costume with a trash bag with holes cut out for the arm and neck holes.) But I digress. At your typical 80s Halloween party, there was some candy, donated by generous parents or broke teachers. You may have sat at your desk and eaten candy, and may have done a Halloween-themed crossword or word search (run off on the Ditto machine, of course). And then you went home and Trick or Treated without your parents, after dark, then came home and ate yourself into a candy coma. Ah, the memories!

But I digress. Back to the Party Planning Meeting. The cafeteria was organized with each group of classroom moms at their own table. Our table was set with a folder containing several documents outlining the party planning policies and procedures. Sunshine’s class had 5 moms signed up for the party planning committee. Me, Samantha, Danielle, Angela, and Becky. After waiting 10 minutes past the Official Start Time of the meeting, Becky was a no-show, so the rest of us plowed ahead. The instructions in our folder told us that the party would be 2 hours long. The children are not allowed to wear their costumes to school, of course. Back in the 80s, before No Child Left Untested, we didn’t know how distracting those padded He-Man chests and pointy witch hats were. Now we know better, so we make the children change into their costumes at school. So, 15 minutes for getting dressed. 30 minutes for the Costume Parade around the track outside. Which leaves one hour, 15 minutes left, to be divided into 15 minute time slots, all of which need to be detailed on the Party Schedule Sheet, which must be approved in advance by the teacher.

The first 15-minute time slot is obviously devoted to the Nutritious Snack That Isn’t Candy. Our committee chose an oh-so-Pinterest-worthy snack: Banana “ghosts” with tangerine “pumpkins,” a whimsical and healthy morsel found on a cooking website for moms with too much time on their hands (See below.) The ghosts and pumpkins will be served with a side of pretzels. The remaining four 15-minute time slots are devoted to “stations,” in which the kids will participate in Festive Themed Activities. Our stations include a Pumpkin Ring Toss (good for building hand-eye coordination), a Cauldron Game (sensory activity!), and a toilet paper mummy game (look at those gross motor skills!). I will be at the helm of the craft station.



Now, I am not crafty by any stretch of the imagination. Crafty moms are able to bring in a box of toilet paper rolls (which they are ALWAYS saving JUST IN CASE a craft opportunity should arise), bottle caps, and glue dots and have the kids create 3-story haunted houses. Uncrafty moms such as myself go on Oriental Trading (and for log’s sake, WHEN is this company going to change it’s name to something less racist?), spend $50, and end up with a bunch of shit for the kids to string into necklaces. But hey, fine motor skill development!

So we fill out our Party Schedule Sheet, plus our Snack Sheet which details all food being served, to cross-reference with any possible food allergies.

Then there is the list of supplies. I was in charge of creating the supply donation list on VolunteerSpot, a completely ingenious website designed to guilt parents into donating stuff to their kids’ classrooms. This website is fantastic. You input the specific supplies and quantities you need for the party. In our case, the list includes things like “Set of 30 small plastic Halloween-themed toys–3 quantity” and “24 pack mini bottled water–2 quantity.” And–here is the genius part–the list gets emailed to all the parents, and when they log on, they can see what needs to be donated, and also who donated what. So what happens is, Billy’s mom will log on and see that Sally’s mom has already signed up for 2 sets of party favors. Not to be outdone, Billy’s mom will sign up to donate all the paper goods. I’ve often logged onto the site and had the following conversation with myself: “I hope I can donate the plates and napkins. Oh damn, Nicole’s mom got those already, that cow. Alright, how about I do a bag of chocolate chips. Wait, Marissa’s mom is sending in two sets of favors, I can’t JUST do a bag of chocolate chips, I’ll look like an asshole. Okay, chocolate chips, and two sets of favors…” and so on.

One week after the meeting: The official party schedule is approved by the teacher. A crisis arises: one of the children is gluten-intolerant. Gluten-free pretzels are added to the supply list.

October 25, 6 days before the party. Sunshine and I do a test run of the craft. The plastic stretchy cord I ordered doesn’t tie into knots. I add a trip to the craft store onto my to-do list.

October 29, two days before the party. Samantha sends the group an email. “Finally heard from Becky. Turns out she just had a baby, so she won’t be able to make it, but she’ll send in some treats.” Well, what the fuck, Becky? Party committee sign-ups were in September. Did being 8 months pregnant somehow slip your mind when you were signing up for an event taking place on October 31st? And “treats”? Those aren’t preapproved, Becky. Get it together. I respond to the group, asking who is going to cover the pumpkin ring toss. *crickets*

October 30, day before the party. I’m doing the craft station. Danielle wants to run the TP mummy station. Samantha is all over the Cauldron game. I sent an email to the group. “Still looking for someone to do the pumpkin ring toss.” No reply. Earth to Angela! Hellooooo, Angela! If the kids end up standing there, woefully unoccupied and unstimulated for 15 full minutes, THAT SHIT’S ON YOU, ANGELA.

Tomorrow it all goes down. I will show up wearing an embarrassingly Oriental-Trading-Style crafted necklace, box of supplies in tow. There will be Mirth. There may even be Merriment. Somebody will forget to donate their assigned supplies. Somebody else will send in overly ambitious and show-offy goody bags so they can claim their Mother of the Year trophy. And at the end, we battle-worn Party Moms will go home, pop a Xanax, sigh a little for the lost Halloweens of our youths, and comfort-eat a few fun-size Snickers before heading out to Trick or Treat with our broods.

And then it will be time for people to sign up for the Winter Holiday Party. I expect you to pull your weight this time, Becky.


October 12th, 2014

Droppin’ It Like It’s Hot

At the start of fall, I decided to go back to school. Not because I fancied a change of career. Not because our finances dictated that I find employment urgently. And not because I missed my former life as an editor and educator. Mostly, I went back to school out of guilt.

I stepped away from the cubicle when I was 5 months pregnant with Little Miss Sunshine. At the time, I was thrilled with my decision, and looking forward to spending day in and day out with my baby girl. But now, eight years later, the shine has worn off. Don’t get me wrong—I’m intensely grateful and gratified to stay at home with my kids. But I do miss the daily adult interaction, as well as the ability to make it through a day without getting snot on my shoulder and pre-chewed graham cracker slime on my pants.

Ultimately, though, the decision to go back to school was made out of guilt: the giant, heavy, soul-sucking burden that all moms carry with them to some extent or another.

Are you a working mom? Look at all those milestones you’ve missed! Did you stop pumping breastmilk—every 2 hours in the supply closet next to the post-its, or on 5-minute breaks between classes, or in the airport lounge praying it would stay cold enough on the flight to that important meeting—because it was just a little too hard? You should have kept that up longer. Hey, why aren’t you at the oh-so-inconvenient 10 AM meeting of the PTA at your kid’s school? And how come you didn’t have time to hand-make the peanut-gluten-dairy-egg-HFCS-rBGH-BPA-free treats for your preschooler’s Earth Day party? Only losers send in pre-packaged snacks, you know.

But hey, stay-at-home moms! You should feel bad, too. Look at that degree you worked so hard for, collecting dust there. You’re not contributing any income to the family! If your kids don’t get to go to Disney World this year, you have no one but yourself to blame. Look at this house! This is supposed to be YOUR DOMAIN, and it’s a wreck! And what are you going to do about that resume? The last employment year on there started with a 2 and had two zeroes in the middle! The working world is passing you by, sister, and there you are like a booger-shouldered schmuck, watching it sail right past. What a shame.

And that’s why I went back to school. Because my resume was dusty and my brain was filled with cobwebs and my heart was filled with the crushing burden of wondering if my family was floundering because of me.

So I paid lots of money and I did lots of work, and two months later… I am still filled with soul-sucking, heart-crushing guilt, but now it’s because I realized that I’ve spent every weekend of the past two months studying, and naptimes studying, and my kids didn’t get to pick apples or go on hayrides or run through corn mazes or other sources of Fall Mirth and Merriment.

The struggle. It is so real.

John Belushi in Animal House

“Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

I dropped one class, hoping that would make things more manageable. It helped a little. But not enough. Because what I realized was that I wasn’t working my ass off out of any burning desire to go back into that particular career field. I was doing it because I didn’t know what else to do. I started thinking about the hours I was spending each week on studying to go back to a career that I wasn’t all that passionate about, and realizing that if I devoted those hours toward stuff I actually CARED about, maybe my life would feel a little less overwhelming.

Before I made my final decision, I decided to talk to my stepmom, whose advice I value highly. “The thing is,” I explained, “I’m just not that passionate about it.”

“Say no more!” she exclaimed. “I would drop that like a hot potato!”

And that confirmed it. Tomorrow I will call the registrar’s office and add “college dropout” to my list of accomplishments or foibles, however you want to look at it. And maybe this week I’ll take my kids to the park to enjoy the weather. It is, after all, fall.

August 29th, 2014

New Adventures

I don’t exactly know what happened, but something in my brain snapped and I decided to go back to school. Maybe it was one poopy diaper too many. Or perhaps the realization that I can sometimes go DAYS without reading or thinking anything more intelligible than “When’s the next episode of Project Runway?” Whatever the case, I’m going back to school for a second Master’s degree (because I guess the first one didn’t stick?).

The program is online, which will allow me to be at home with Mr. Mischief for the next few years, at which point I’ll go back to work and the kids can fend for themselves unsupervised, living off PB&J, running wild through the neighborhood, and trying not to burn the house down. Or maybe I’ll have my mom come and watch them. I’m still working out the details.

I also decided that I needed a new hobby, so I started selling Jamberry (check it out! If you haven’t seen these things, they’re vinyl nail wraps that come in oodles of adorable patterns. I’m a little obsessed. Look how cute my nails are.


And now you know why there’s been radio silence on the blog lately. That, and back to school season for the bigs has kicked my butt. Sgt. Snowflake starts school next week, thank log, so hopefully I’ll have a smidge more time to write.