Happy Birthday!!

Recently, I discovered it was a friend’s birthday- via Facebook, of course, which, sadly, is where I get a majority of my information these days. I opted to send Misty a text rather than post on her wall. How this is better, I’m not sure. What I really wanted to do was mail her a card, but it was too late for that.

I sent a text that said, “Happy Birthday! I hope your day is as fabulous as you are.”

It rang hollow to me even as I hit send. Because Misty is fabulous. She’s the kind of fabulous who will always send YOU a card, which will arrive on time, regardless of the weather.

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Misty’s Valentine, which arrived in between blizzards on February 13.

My lame-ass text was not even a Hallmark. More like something from the 99-cent section of greeting cards next to the tampons in the grocery store.

Then I looked at her Facebook page and discovered that three other people had posted that exact same message on her wall!

I sent another text: “I take it back. I hope your birthday rocks balls.”

She gave me credit for sentiment, but marked me down a point for lack of originality. Which got me to thinking, how many ways are there to say Happy Birthday?

I’m a chronic birthday forgetter.

Facebook giving me a reminder and the opportunity to write “Happy Birthday!!” on someone’s wall lets me do fully 100% more to observe that birthday than I would have otherwise.

The problem is that I want to be more than that, and I’m not.

If you see a friend in-person on their birthday, you simply say, “Happy Birthday!” No need to be witty. If you have a gift, it’s even better, but not necessary. Sending a card or a gift across the miles brings joy, if you remember to do it.

Facebook reminds us of the birthdays of close friends, relatives, and acquaintances. We feel an obligation to observe all the birthdays that pop up in our sidebar, regardless of the closeness of the relationship.

You find yourself wishing happy birthday to someone with whom the only thing you have in common is the the same second grade teacher, or the job at the car wash that summer before sophomore year, or the fact that you both shut down the same bar every night for six months before one of you went into rehab and the other one didn’t notice.

Is it possible to send pithy, heartfelt, electronic birthday greetings?

Happy Birthday!! Are you bringing cake to work?

Thanks for letting me copy your math homework in 4th grade. Happy Birthday!!

When I quit that horrid place we worked at together, I swore I’d never speak to anyone from there again. Happy Birthday!!

I hang out with you only to steal your Altoids. Happy Birthday!!

I have no idea who you are. Happy Birthday!!

I’m the one who ran over your cat. Happy Birthday!!

Your parents pay me to be your friend. Happy Birthday!!

*****

#1’s spring break this year happened to coincide with my birthday and she was coming back for a visit. She mentioned she had a birthday surprise for me…

And that she had to go to five different places before finding one that would accommodate her wishes…

And that she told my mom about it and my mom was appalled…

I must confess, I never saw it coming, and I’m so damn proud of her for pulling this off.

See, this Christmas, #1 wasn’t able to make it back to New Jersey. We packed up a trunk with a gift for her to open each day in December leading up to Christmas. My favorite gift of all was a very… special… picture of Jack that I framed and wrapped. I couldn’t imagine that this gift could be topped, ever.

That’s because I failed to imagine the photo topping a cake.

Every place she went to get it made had refused, saying that the photo violated their corporate policies on decency. When she went to the last place, she handed them the picture upside down because, as she says, “Upside down, it kind of looks like a ferret, so they thought it was a ferret and then we both signed off on it before they figured out that it wasn’t a ferret.”

I’ve looked at this picture- and at the subject in real life- a lot, and I don’t see a ferret.

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Finally, with this photo of a cake with a photo on it, I have my pithy, heartfelt electronic birthday wish for everyone’s Facebook wall.

Now, where do we put the candle?

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They Work Against You In Ways You Never Expected

Unless they were saints, your parents at some point said to you, “Just wait until you have your own children!”

You probably thought (not said, because you knew better than that) Well, when I DO have my own children, I’m going to be cooler than you! I’ll let my kid stay out til dawn/listen to heavy metal/smoke pot/eat ice cream for breakfast/not do their homework/(fill in the blank with the opposite of whatever patently uncool thing they wanted you to do).

Here’s the thing that your parents knew that you can’t possibly understand until you are raising children yourself:

Kids work against you in ways you never expected.

True, on occasion, your kid acts exactly like you did, and you suddenly understand how freaking annoying you were to your parents and marvel that they didn’t kill you.

Then they act the opposite of you. Remember the Keatons from Family Ties? The hippies who birthed a Republican? Yeah, like that.

You envisioned  being the kind of parent who would not censor the music your children wanted to listen to, and promised to not overly scrutinize it for profanity, unsavory characters, the expression of strong emotions, screaming, or screaming guitars. Your children like Justin Beiber and anime theme songs.

You decided at age eleven that you would never pull a book out of your child’s hands because it was deemed “too old” for them. Your kids would rather clean their rooms than read a book.

You promised yourself you would not give any girls you had a hard time about wearing skirts with a hemline above the knee.  Your girls almost never wear anything other than sweatpants and consider jeans to be “dressed up”.

Even when parents differ on certain issues, kids have an innate sense of how to execute a maneuver that will get to both of them.

Early on after the kids came to live with us, #1 asked me if I would go with her to get her first tattoo when she turned 18. I said yes. Her father rolled his eyes, hoping we would both grow out of it.

But when the time came, she no longer wanted my input.

She came home one day with the words “I now walk into the wild” tattooed on her ribs, in gangsta script.

Her father was apoplectic.

CC: A Christopher McCandless quote? Are you serious? You got the words of a loser tattooed on your body forever? What is wrong with you?

#1: He’s not a loser, he’s awesome!

CC: He went into the wilderness completely unprepared and died. That’s the very definition of losing.

#1: Nuh-uh!

Me: Where did you get it done?

#1: That place at Willowbrook next to Hollister.

Me: You got a tattoo done at the mall?!?! What is wrong with you?

CC: Wait, let me see it again. Did you read this? It says “I no walk into the wlid.”

#1: Daddy!

CC: Hmm, maybe if he had put it like that, he would have lived.

Me: Please tell me they didn’t actually tattoo the quotation marks.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 2.39.51 PMAt least none of the kids want to be clowns.

Yet.

How do your kids get to you?

Nobody Ever Accused Me of Being Donna Reed

Early into my new gig as an accidental stepmom, I determined that part of my job description could not include frequent, thorough cleaning of the kids’ rooms. This wasn’t some high and mighty ideal, as if I were somehow above this mundane task. It was more of a recognition and acceptance that I was an abysmal housekeeper before I got kids.

For my 8th birthday, my parents gave me a poster to hang on my bedroom door. It was an elaborate cartoonish drawing of a disturbingly messy room with a caption that read: My Room: Love it or Leave it! They thought it was hilarious.

Right around this time, which was shortly after my mother stopped cleaning my room, my father took up photography. He did a series of shots with the poster placed in strategic locations around my room. Art imitating life and all. I was not at home at the time and only discovered he had done this after the prints were developed.

[For anyone under 30, I’ll explain: you used to have to take rolls of film out of your camera and drop them off at the local photo store. As long as it wasn’t attacked by either terrorists or a time-traveling DeLorean, you’d get your pictures, on paper, back in anywhere from 2-10 days.]

I highly suspect that beer was involved in my father’s art project and have no doubt that he highly amused himself while doing it. Had we the internet back then, he probably would have blogged it.

So I’m a slob. It never really bothered me until there were suddenly seven of us in a too-small rental house and I couldn’t find a single thing I owned because any object I let go of was immediately covered by six possessions that other people placed on top of it for the simple fact that there wasn’t a place to put their stuff either. If the object had the misfortune to be something shiny, it was ferreted away by #5 to his secret collection. Car keys were a particular favorite of his.

The truth is that out of all of us, my husband was the only one with a clue about how to run a household of this size. I tend to keep my mouth shut about that– in my neighborhood, it’s apparently sport to complain about your husband and how he can’t load a dishwasher. I’m afraid that if the women around here really know everything CC does in this house, they’ll take him and leave me alone with the kids.

I could write a whole other post on how my kids came to have a resentment against sheets. Oh, that’s right– I did. Over on Family Circle’s Momster blog: Parenting Confessions: Unmade Beds Don’t Bother Me. That’s why God gave us doors that close, my friends.

Are you a slob, or a neat freak?

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