21 Awesome Events from 2016 … Number 13 will Amaze You!!

The Family Christmas Letter

Non-objectively speaking (my strength), this was not our planet’s best year.  You’ve probably already heard too much about disasters around the globe—violence and politics and refugees and famous people dying (though that seems to happen every year). And maybe it has you down going in to the Christmas season.  So, we invite you to Evie’s world, where only news directly related to the Campbell family matters.  Because in that world, 2016 was pretty fabulous.

  1. We moved! After 12 long years (or whole lives, for the smaller members of the family) we left DC for a new adventure in North Carolina. So far, it is great. There is no traffic (the locals think there is, but we’re still riding the high where a small flock of cars waiting patiently in a line is actually somehow relaxing). It is warm. There are SO MANY Target stores. Oh, and we live near family for the first time in years, including some amazing babysitting-aged cousins. #happysigh
  2. We went to Disneyworld. The girls’ faces of wonder at meeting real-life Ariel and Belle and Rapunzel made the trip.  James’s face of wonder at meeting Joy and Sadness from Inside Out was a close second.  And we loved having Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Rob as travel buddies.
  3. We went to the beach. Nothing beats relaxing by the ocean, kids playing all day with family, and sand in someone ELSE’s bathtub.
  4. Abigail got sporty. She did martial arts in Virginia, earning her low orange belt before we moved.  She’s also doing jazz and gymnastics this fall.  The true feat is that we almost always know where the respective uniforms are located.
  5. Evie, who likes to do all the things that Abigail can do, also got to do dance and gymnastics. She is spunky and fun and adds an element of leotard fashion that we might not have otherwise.
  6. I had a great time at my DC job through September. I got to be more creative this year than ever before and worked with awesome people. I miss it.
  7. Except that so far, I love being home in NC. I drive the kids around all the time and hang out with the dog and read and work out and fight the urge to make more cookies. It is pretty awesome and makes the whole family happier and more peaceful, which is a daily blessing.
  8. We have a fireplace at our new house. And a mailbox.  And a doorbell.  The girls are beside themselves with the novelty and joy of suburban life in a single-family home. Me too, once the doorbell fascination wore off.
  9. We also have a [redacted] in our new house, which Abigail and Evie turned into a secret play space. They tell visitors it is an [redacted] (giggle giggle) but it is really full of art, books, and tea sets (apparently with hidden candy; I find lots of wrappers).  [Details above have been redacted at Abigail’s request to maintain this important family secret.]
  10. Evie got a Princess Elena backpack—part of being a big girl in transitional img_20161017_141407596kindergarten class. She is learning to read and write letters, has weekly homework, and frequently surprises us at the dinner table with facts she’s learned that can prove other people wrong.
  11. Abigail is a founding member at a new school, which she loves (Go, explorers! Cutest mascot ever.) She seems to pick up a new extra-curricular activity each week. Currently it’s chess. She is better than me already, but this is a very low bar, since I got scolded for calling it the “horse.”
  12. Abigail—history’s most devoted reader—is developing excellent taste in literature. After years devouring anything she could get her hands on, she tackled classic series this year like Nancy Drew and Harry Potter.  Finally, I feel the closing of the Rainbow Magic Fairies  Not that I hate that wretched, formulaic series and cannot wait.
  13. James and the girls made their own root beer for Halloween. It cost $50 and I had to go to four stores to get all the stuff, but it was tasty and hopefully satiated James and Abigail’s desire to carry out semi-dangerous science experiments around the house for at least a while.img_20161031_173431647_burst000_cover_top
  14. Evie made things easy with her extremely clear (if arguably narrow and overly rigid) preferences. For example: every single day for lunch she has a peanut-butter-and-Nutella sandwich on bread with no crust. Once I didn’t have bread and sent it on a hot dog bun, and once we were out of Nutella and I substituted jelly, but I have since learned my lesson.
  15. I ran in several races this year. I just finished my first half marathon this weekend here in North Carolina.  Two amazing friends came from DC to help get me through it. I am still enjoying my post-run high (and the almost-as-important job of post-race eating).
  16. James had some great running, too. He joined me in several races and inspired me to run a bit faster and farther. Except when I was silently cursing him because he runs so much more effortlessly than I do, even when I am training for a half marathon and he has a chest cold. So unfair. Grumble grumble grumble.
  17. We had sooooo many cookies. Evie is a determined and sugar-tastic baker, and she kept us in ample supply of cookies, brownies, and cupcakes all year.  And James kept up the tradition of weekly biscuit-making (BEST. BISCUITS. EVER.)  He also added homemade soft pretzels to his repertoire. Friends are welcome to visit in NC to partake! We have a guest room. J
  18. James really enjoys his new job, working at an analytic sciences laboratory at NC State. He has lots of latitude to choose his own projects, loves being on a college campus, and gets to wear more casual, non-DC attire. Plus, he’s hundreds of miles away from the home office right now…
  19. James’s job came with a professional moving company that even boxed things up. Since I cannot convince James to get rid of his pile of old math books, this is the next best thing.
  20. Maisie has a backyard. It is amazing for fetch and chase and tug-of-war, her best skills.  The backyard did not come with someone to clean up dog poop, though. Alas. 2017?
  21. In the banner year for fake Internet news, the Bow Wow News was created by two intrepid reporters who value truth, humor, and the American way (and who also employed their mom-who-can-type). If you’re looking for news, original poems, and photos of dogs in costumes, you should subscribe.  I think it costs 50 cents.

We hope that despite any sadness or set-backs, you have had joys and triumphs this year.  May you feel our love and the love of the Christmas season, and carry them with you into the New Year.  You are always welcome in Evie’s world, where her birthday—and that of her birthday twin, baby Jesus—are coming soon to fill you with delight and love and peace and cupcakes.

Love of the season from our family to yours!

I am a Superhero

No, not from Halloween (though if there is a way to become a hero by eating fun-size Snickers bars and Kit Kats, that might be a contributing factor). I am for real: my mad parenting skills are not just impressive–they are superhuman. For example:

  1. I can shift time. We’re one week into end-of-daylight-savings-time. Or, as many parents-of-toddlers know it, “[redacted] kids wake up crazy early day.” But I now have seven years’ experience getting children–and now a baby animal–who have no concept of time to adjust their entire lives by an hour, simply by yelling and locking people in their sleeping areas. In just one month’s time, I can get my children entirely recovered from Daylight Savings, waking again at a reasonable hour. Probably. By Christmas, for sure.
  2. I can do things while asleep. While we’re waiting for the full effect of #1 power, I use this: my ability to parent and run a household half asleep. I can ask people to get dressed, authorize extra early morning cartoon screen time, and like photos on Instagram all while mostly still asleep. For example, D2 was a 5:30am riser for a long time. I don’t remember many details, because I think I have PTSD-repressed them, but I do remember the lingering emotion between MI and I about “who’s turn?” and “who’s idea to have another kid…” that added drama to that year. I also remember one morning when she was about 18 months old and loved fruit snacks. She found a new box in the pantry, right across from where I was laying on the couch. She loved them, but she couldn’t open them. She brought them to me, her sleeping guardian, and I gave them to her as a pre-breakfast snack. 7 times, apparently. I woke up in a pile of wrappers. See–I can even feed them while asleep.
  3. I can both clean all the time and have the house be a total disaster. I straighten the house for hours a day. Days a day, even. The kids make so much mess that the only way I’ve found to keep the house neat is to minimize the amount of time we are awake there. Before we had kids, it took me a while to put away the clean dishes because, well, I didn’t feel like doing it. Now putting away dishes is the best because it is easy, I could do it peacefully in the kitchen while listening to a podcast on my headphones, and it is one of those chores that immediately shows results. But, no, it still takes forever in our house to put away the dishes because that is supposed to be a kids’ chore. So even though I’d happily just do it, my chore is to make them do it; SO. MUCH. HARDER. I mean, asking them to pause making messes in the living room so they can come bicker while slowly putting spoons in the fork slot–that is TOUGH. Sometimes it takes two days. Sigh.
  4. Poop does not phase me. I love to tell a good poop story. Kids provide so very many. Even puppies have nothing on toddlers, I’ve found so far. Single friends listen, horrified, and tell me “I just can’t do that.” But when you’re alone for bedtime and your kid poops in the tub, well, you can’t just leave it there. And there is no service call for that. Even if you wanted to just move, you have to clean to show the house. So you deal with it. You wash your hands and get it over with. Now, after 7 years, I am immune to shit and can keep my cool when others lose theirs. For example, a few years ago at a race, one of my friends had a very unfortunate port-a-potty visit. She responded by screaming and texting people about the woeful state of humanity. I was the one who dealt with it–someone else’s poop, someone else’s shorts, public restroom, no big deal. Superhero.
  5. I can make two kinds of dinner in 12 minutes. I am like a short order cook. I really like to cook; I like to play with recipes and cook with vegetables and make things that are healthy and creative. But when we get home from work and school, everyone is starving and I have 15 minutes to get an adult meal and a kid meal on the table. I know that they say not to do that–it should be one meal for the whole family. But I won’t eat quesadillas every day and I cannot figure out how to get the girls to eat food with vegetables or anything red or anything with sauce or anything where multiple ingredients are mixed together. So there are two versions. If you think about it, I cook 14 dinners a week. Unless we order pizza. And go out to eat on Saturday. And eat cereal on Tuesday…

Continue reading “I am a Superhero”

Puppies are Way Easier than Babies

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Adorable puppy. And that foreground pattern is my new gym pants. Also adorable.

Big news in our family this week: we got a dog. Not even a dog, really, but a little, little puppy. And it has been so much poop-filled fun. She’ll appear here in the blog in her true name–Maisie–just like our fish Toothless before her (which reminds me to mention: Toothless died. I gave him a proper burial in the backyard under the Japanese maple tree. MI attended and we both said a few words. The girls didn’t notice for a week.)

Maisie is adorable and small and energetic and tired and hungry and mouthy and definitely not housebroken. And I completely love it! Having small boundless energy and curiosity and enthusiasm over the smallest things is something I needed around again, I think. Sure helps transition from the end of summer. She seems to blend in to our crew right away: she grabbed a piece of bacon her first morning in the house, loves (chewing) legos and My Little Ponies, and is always ready to snuggle (especially if she thinks she is displacing an attention competitor. Poor D2.)

We’re only a week in, so I cannot give an official puppy review yet, but I have been pleasantly surprised so far. Probably because lots of people told me that having a puppy was just like having another baby. Up at night, cleaning all the time, can’t go anywhere. So much work, they said.

She sleeps on one of the nice beach towels. I am a softie.
She sleeps on one of the nice beach towels. I am a softie.

Well, I have decided that either those people have never actually had babies, or they are way more involved dog parents than I am. Both, I think.

Here are the reasons I think having a puppy is SOOOO much easier than having a baby:

  1. She can already walk. There is no crying that she wishes she could roll over, that she could get that toy, that she was near where I am. She can walk–run and hop off of the back two porch steps, even–and so she just does all of those things. So much less movement frustration, so much less crying.
  2. She eats one kind of food, only three times a day, and I don’t have to make it in any way (let alone from scratch using my own body). She eats it in like 3 minutes and then gets herself a drink of water. She never spits it out, she never smears it through her hair, she never throws the bowl violently to the floor. In fact, in her puppy way, she says, “This is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Man, I am grateful to you.” every time. I give her half of a dog biscuit occasionally, which purportedly tastes like peanut butter and beef hide and is a whopping 2.5 calories, and she is on the moon.
  3. She doesn’t have to come with me. When I want to go to the grocery store and go fast or do my stock up trip, she doesn’t
    IMG_20151009_210920103
    Completely exhausted from a walk around the courtyard.

    come. Then I don’t have to deliberate slowly about fruit snacks, or admire all five types of available character band-aids, or teach the experiential lesson of how you should remove the apple from the top of the pile. She doesn’t need to play all of the musical birthday cards that cost $6 (who buys $6 birthday cards!?) or ask if she can have a mylar balloon shaped like R2D2. Because she doesn’t come–I leave her at home.

  4. I put her in her crate and go downstairs and watch TV. If she’s storming around theIMG_20151007_155514672 house, trying to eat other people’s legos or chewing on the bottom of the wall (yes, this happens. Baffled…) I can just put her in her exercise crate. Boom, I am back to making dinner or talking on the phone or sneaking downstairs to read important stories on Buzzfeed. She doesn’t always love it–she sometimes whines at first–but she has a bed and a bone and toys and it is completely legal. I give her a chew toy, pat her head, and head on down without feeling any terrible guilt. She’s usually asleep within two minutes. Plus, her yips are MUCH quieter than a child meltdown. I can easily block that decimal level out by now, sister.
  5. She loves me already. Maisie clearly recognizes how important I am and that I do everything in her life that she needs done. In as much as she can say thank you and “I love you” with tail wags and licks and lap cuddles, she does it all the time. Baby care was waaaay harder and for six months, I got a whole lotta nothing back about it. Rude.

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    Pet me? Pet me? Pet me?
  6. She will love me in ten years. With the dog, I am not bracing myself for the moment she needs me to drop her off a block away and depart with a firm handshake, like we’ve just completed a professional chauffeur interaction. After all, she licks herself in strange places and enjoys eating plastic, so she is unlikely to ever be embarrassed of me. Unless perhaps she is–but I won’t even have to know so because she can’t say anything about it. Insulted from rejection, loved forever. (I recently got some of the first “worst mom ever”s lately. Can you tell?)IMG_20151006_072329930

I am not trading my kids in to become a puppy lady (in part because I don’t think trade-ins are a thing in parenting) but I just wanted to go on the record as saying ‘Once you have (crazy) kids and learn how to laugh through everything and have fun and soak up only the love,’ a puppy seems to blend right in. Plus, did I mention she is ADORABLE?  And so fun.

Also, does anyone know how to make her pee outside?

–Lauren

Guest Post! Master Class to Admiring Any Baby

(regardless of what the baby actually looks like)

Let’s be honest, a lot of babies look vaguely creepy. There are many exceptions, but unfortunately most proud parents are (rightfully) oblivious to the fact that their newborn primarily bears resemblance to an alien. Since perfectly attractive people can have very odd-looking babies, you need to be prepared with a socially acceptable way to respond to any baby photo that is independent of the photo subject.

Step 1: tone of voice.

Your voice should always be positive, upbeat, and admiring when looking at baby photos.

Step 2: filler words.

The first time I ever look at someone’s child I start with an “awwww” while I think of something more specific to praise. It’s non-committal and generally accepted as an outward expression of how cute the photo is, even if inside you are thinking “awwww, that poor kid is going to have a tough time in middle school” or “awwww, shit, how am I going to say something nice about this kid?”

I’ve also found an effusive “oh my goodness” to be an acceptable alternative. “Wow” fills the same role but gives you less time to think. Find a word or phrase you’re comfortable with that will buy time.

See step 1 about tone. All of these responses are tonally dependent.

step 3: avoiding gender.

Most of the time the baby’s gender will be obvious (by name, by the parent’s pronoun use, by all the sonogram pictures that were posted to Facebook for seven months…), but there are some circumstances in which gender is unclear and for whatever reason you think it is uncomfortable to ask. Unless you know for sure whether it’s a boy or a girl, try to avoid receiving the awkward “actually, it’s (s)he” correction from a defensive parent. A safe way to do this is to pick a feature to compliment, and then try to wait for the parent to state the gender. Instead of “he’s got stunning eyes” go for “look at those eyes!”

step 4: be specific.

I’m a big believer in the feature-based compliment route because I am a terrible liar. I really am not great at selling the “she’s beautiful” line when it’s a goblin baby. Instead, I pick something in the picture that I can admire without guile.

My go to features:

  • Cheeks
  • Eyes/eyelashes
  • Lips
  • Fingers/toes (particularly the little nails)

A bit more detail:

Cheeks are safe bets. Cheeks are almost always my first choice of baby compliments, regardless of whether it’s a model baby or a Golum baby. This is especially effective when paired with “oh look at those …” as an opener because then you don’t have to specific what you like about them. (Combing steps 1-4: “Awww! Look at those cheeks!” is a golden first response to a baby photo. It works for every baby. No one can fault you. No one can correct you. You said nothing that can possibly be misconstrued, even for particularly jowly babies. You did a great job!)

Eyes are also winners. Eyes can be expressive, striking, alert, etc. Find a few adjectives that work for you. You can also always throw it a comment about how the eyes are indicative of the baby’s intelligence. Parents like that shit.

If you’re not going for a face-based compliment, stick with the baby’s hands/feet. It is a particularly safe bet to comment on the smallness/delicacy/amazingness of the baby’s fingers and toes.

Step 5: look for kid-specific things to discuss.

You made it through the first 5-10 seconds with your canned baby responses. Now you have to carry on the conversation for at least 30 more seconds until you can get away from whatever mobile device is being waved in front of your face.

Safe topics:

  • The littleness of the baby (don’t go overboard here if it’s a premie) and admiring various small features
  • Comments about how the baby looks “snuggly”
  • Inquiring about the health of child/mother (try to keep it vague. don’t ask about the birth unless hearing about episiotomies is your thing…)
  • Asking about how everyone is sleeping

Things to Avoid:

  • Commenting on chubby babies, fat rolls, use of the word “chunky,” etc. Yes, it is good/normal/healthy for babies to have baby fat. However, quick admiration will go better if you pick universally safe topics that don’t potentially carry societal baggage. Comment only if the parent brings it up first, and even then use qualifiers like “sweet.”
  • Speculating on which parent the baby looks like more. This is a can of worms. Stay away.
  • Commenting on headbands/hats made with gigantic plastic flowers. Admittedly this is my personal preference, mostly because I don’t think such monstrosities should be encouraged.

Step 6: extraction.

After one or two pictures, apologize for cutting things short and excuse yourself to go back to work/run to the restroom/grab a drink of water. Tell the parent congratulations. Say how glad you are they stopped by to share the photos with you. Throw yourself a small party for successfully admiring someone’s (ugly) baby.

baby bearded dragon

This post was written by Lauren’s incredibly hilarious sister, who is so gifted at writing that she began doing the family Christmas letter when she was 8 years old and continued until after college. Lauren begged for her to write for Parentheticalasides.com, so leave lots of grateful comments so that we can all enjoy it again.

Timeline of Family Growth and Development Milestones, As They Relate to Dora the Explorer

2008-9: Small, new, baby–too small even to watch television–arrives. I have never seen Dora the Explorer. My world is about to change.

2010: Family trip to Asia with an 18-month old in coach. I unveil the magic of television watching for the first time, hoping it will be a spellbinding gift that will buy hours of peaceful time on the plane. 18 month old watches Dora the Explorer–in English and Korean–for about ten minutes. Seems. . .unimpressed. Crushing maternal disappointment for the first–perhaps only?–time that my kid will *NOT* watch TV. The flight is so very, very long. (Its completion is still one of my top five lifetime accomplishments.)

2011: Dora–and general TV watching–finally take. At first she silently observes with dora backpacksaucer-wide eyes and the slightest of smiles. By the end of the year, mini-marathon sessions are possible–30 to 45 minutes of free hands for parents!–and the characters have become well-loved family friends. We love music and know all the songs. (Not hard. One is just the word “backpack,” repeated 37 times with different inflection.)

2012: Someone gives us a plastic, purple, talking backpack and a book that does not fit on the shelf and includes 12 micro Dora figurines. The backpack sings its own theme song, or name, or life mantra: “backpack, backpack;” we listen again and again, longing to uncover the mystery. The figurines possess a strong sedative power but, if they are lost, as they often are, sleep is a stranger to us. We learn the best places to search for objects lost by the nonsensical and barely verbal, the best ways to distract emotional toddlers from unpleasant realities, and the occasions when you just have to cry it out.

–Suddenly, mid-year, the Dora love dries up: Swiper the rule-breaking-Fox is no longer cute in his capers. He is a dangerous social menace who can’t be trusted. We develop empathy for Dora and Tico and Roberto the Robot–who are often the victims of Swiper’s TRULY SENSELESS crimes. Hysterical crying makes even the most innocent-seeming episode a bridge too far. So we focus on reading books and playing with other kids and Dora briefly exits our life.

2013: A new toddler enters the scene, seemingly born knowing how to stream from Netflix, and she wants to watch Dora. She sits, saucer-eyed and smiles; but her older sister continues the Swiper-the-Fox freak out. So it is that they learn to fight over controlling the television, to tease each other about irrational fears, and to pretend nothing happened when parents arrive, skills that–as I remember it–will be heavily used in coming years.

2014: A trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house–CABLE! Nick Junior!!–reveals the existence of “Dora and Friends,” in-to-the-ci-ty. A catchier theme song and more mature content (Dora is a tween! in the city! with a changing wardrobe!), make this an instant hit. Upon returning home to our basic-TV-channels-only home, we begin learning the rule that we don’t always have and won’t always get all of the cool things other people have. This lesson is hard, and they test it weekly, just to make sure.

2015: We finally get cable. Not for Dora; I feel confident no one does that. It is maybe for MI to watch baseball, or to allow more movie recording options, or just so I feel hip (irony of using “hip” to be hip is not lost. The irony of “being hip” by getting cable during the 2015 cable-cutting era was lost, though, until MI pointed it out while proofreading. Whatever, haters.) We now have to and can record Dora and Friends in-to-the-ci-ty. The entertainment grail. We must now learn the secret of moderation–a lifelong human pursuit that applies to everything except smiling and cookies. We learn about finishing work before play, turning things off when it is time to leave, and not singing theme songs around people who are hungry.


They’re growing up, and the lessons are getting deep. It struck me how Dora has been woven through the early years of my children’s development in a way the show’s creators perhaps didn’t anticipate. We didn’t learn about passing first through the Coconut Forest, past the place with the bubbles that can be repaired with duct tape, to the big red hill that is actually a large chicken. We already knew that. We learned about family and fears and relationships and compromise…

…and this pearl of wisdom, which I heard Ella passing along to D2 at dinner:

Dora and Friends is not just a show. Dora and Friends is actually a non-fiction movie. It is about 2060 years ago, about *real* life, told in a fun, fiction-like way so that kids can understand. It. is. REAL.

D2 nodded sagely.

Venn diagram, kitchen table, accidental fire.

Marriage is a Venn diagram: your preferences, the other person’s preferences, and the all important area of overlap in the middle that defines the way you can peacefully live your lives.

In fact, marriage is an almost infinite series of Venn diagrams. What music can we both tolerate in the car (MUSIC. Who is mature enough for NPR?)? What vegetables will we both eat (besides french fries, the ‘gimme’ I assume is included in all American Venn diagrams.)? Will the couch and/or bed have throw pillows pileofpillows(I did not, until 10 years ago, realize that this could be a topic for debate with some people. Who dislikes throw pillows?)?

When it comes to the Venn diagram of furniture, MI and I have a rather small overlap. MI seeks the beautiful, the artisan, the statement, the unique. I tend towards the easily and quickly acquired. The I-won’t-completely-lose-it-when-someone-colors-on-this-with-Sharpie. Mostly the “from Target.” 

So our house has all elements. The custom cherry wood bed frame that MI coveted for four years before I finally caved. (I hit my hip on the waterfall footboard almost every night for the first year of D2’s life as I stumbled toward her crying at 2am like a zombie. I think I still have an indent.) There are big box store bookshelves with wood-grain cardboard backing nailed on and shelves that bow like old camels. And who doesn’t have the Ikea Lack table?lack table

Despite the evidence of compromise over more than a decade of joint furnishing, there have been clashes. I vetoed the authentic oriental rug. He vetoed the end tables made of plastic storage tubs covered in extra fabric. I vetoed the amazing, custom hard wood (one bazillion dollar) loft/nook/trundle bunk bed. He vetoed the bedroom decor inspired by 10 things available RIGHT NOW at Home Goods (strike hard when that line is short, I say!)

And so I set up for you, dear reader, the saga of:

The Kitchen Table

MI had one picked out. It was the bed frame’s long lost brother, and for a handsome fee, we could bring them back together under one roof. Or, if we wanted to ‘cut back,’ we could get the same wood from a different place–not quite as artisan, not quite as beautiful, but less expensive and still quite nice.

I had one picked out. I mean, I could quickly have one picked out, once we lowered the back seat in the car and went to Target.

Neither wanted to budge. But we agreed that it was time for the old table to go. Craigslist buyers came much more quickly than I was expecting and all of a sudden, there was nothing in our dining room. Ella and D2 cried–for real–when they came down in the morning; I think they thought “When the Grinch Stole Christmas” was happening to us (and as it turns out, we don’t just keep singing.).

We called it our “Asian dining experiment.” We will love–LOVE–sitting cozily all together on the floor. We bought cute seat cushions. I laid out table cloths. We convinced the children life was now one long picnic. But we were fooling only ourselves. Children would accidentally step on my plate–a new problem when I thought

Me, in the time of no table.
Me, in the time of no table.

I had already faced all of the ways children could ruin a meal. People with joint pain were out of luck about getting back up from dinner. We had to assess whether potential dinner invitees were sufficiently open-minded to dine with us. And the sweeping. Oh, the sweeping.

FOR THREE MONTHS.

One day, I couldn’t take it. I couldn’t even make it to Target. I found an awesome-looking table online for $300 from a company I’d never heard of that they would ship for–who cares?–and was supposed to be easy to assemble. “Place order.” I didn’t tell MI until the world’s largest box was sitting on our porch the following week after work. The kids thought the Grinch had finally returned Christmas, but I could tell that not everyone was full of glee.

But MI, with his heart of gold, assembled my internet mystery table. And admitted that it looked “actually pretty nice.” I thought it was the best piece of furniture in the history of time and we had a full-on feast to celebrate. . . having a table. #classy

I felt a twinge of guilt, though, every time we passed MI’s favorite wood artisan store. And I could see the sadness in his eyes when friends (who came flooding back when we rejoined the modern world) asked where it was from and I couldn’t remember. “Online.” “Probably China.” Sigh.

The Fire

But regret over my pragmatic and cost-effective dining solution, graciously, was not to last long. One evening, less than three weeks after the table’s celebratory welcome feast, there was an accident. I will omit some details here, mostly because they are self incriminating, so I think I am allowed to do that, but choices were made and somehow, inexplicably, there was a fire on the table caused by a beautiful centerpiece tea candle and a reusable grocery bag (I was setting the mood and saving the environment, friends. Remember that.)

Turns out, melted plastic vinyl (or whatever they make those bags out of) is really hard to get off of fake internet wood. Annnnnd, also turns out, that a dinner knife is not as safe for scraping off burnt polyester as you’d think. (Even if you can’t see the scratches, your husband can.)

So, as an unfortunate byproduct of creating a beautiful home and preserving our children’s futures, I mildly, permanently disfigured the very center of the new kitchen table.

Thank goodness for whoever made this table at the low, low cost of $300 plus shipping. Thank goodness for not MI’s beloved fancy table. That fire would have been so much more emotional–perhaps impossible to recover from. I mean, think of the trauma to the bed frame had I killed his brother. It’d seem like motive after the nighttime hip-foot board incidents and I probably would be suspected of retaliatory arson.

So we have my table.Thank goodness for centerpieces, right? (But mind the candles.) And I also have new comfort for the future: I had promised MI that we could look into getting a super fancy table when we could feel more confident that our family wouldn’t destroy it. Turns out, the kids are not the only risk, so I might have bought myself extra time.

Relatedly, I turned the old, no-table floor cushions into throw pillows.  Mwahaha.couch with throw pillows