How To Paint Your Own Cabinets

Make sure your house has plenty of ugly cabinets — ones with years of grease stuck to them. This is crucial for steps later on. The more cabinets, the better. Your first apartment in Brooklyn with four cabinets won’t do. 

Once you’ve got the cabinets, pick your color at the paint store. This will be a hard decision. If you have kids, give them lollipops to keep them busy for five minutes because you think that will honestly be enough time to choose. But there are at least twenty shades of light gray. Some with red undertones, some with blue. Spend a half-hour looking at all of them while your kids run amok in the supply aisle. Roll your eyes when your oldest asks you to buy her the purple paint roller, because you half knew she’d ask for something. She always asks,whether it’s a toy at Target, gum at the grocery store, or a purple paint roller at the paint store.

Finally, choose a grey based on the name, because they all look the same and your hypothetical kids are testing your last sliver of patience.

With your paint, brushes, rollers, and drop cloths in tow, head home.

Don’t plan your attack on your cabinets. Only reasonable people do that. Instead, dive right in. 

Remove all the knobs and drawer pulls and set them aside to donate. Brass might make a comeback, but this shade of fake gold will not be in your house. Still, tossing it would be wasteful. Someone else will love it.

Remove all twenty-two of your cabinet doors and all eleven drawers. Lay them in various places throughout the basement and the garage. Don’t buy tripod-stand-things to paint on, because that would make it easier on you. This needs to be the most difficult labor of love you’ve ever attempted.

Sand both sides of all the doors, all drawers and the fronts of the cabinets, then clean them all with wood soap. The cabinets and doors from around the stove will need an extra washing or two. They will be completely caked in grease. If you paint without cleaning, the grease will seep through and turn the paint brown. Then you will have to complete the sand/wash/paint steps all over. This process should be hard, not impossible.

Soak all the hinges in a vinegar and water solution, then scrub them with S.O.S. Pads and let them dry. The hinges are exposed, also made of brass, and purchasing new nickel ones would be the easy and expensive way out. You need to paint those too. Spray paint all sides of all forty-four hinges in batches. Ten at a time. Vinegar will linger on your skin, which somehow reminds you of your favorite drink. 

So, drink wine. Lots of it, because it calms your anxiety about the unfinished project.

Over the next two months, apply six coats of paint to each drawer front, cabinet front, and both sides of each door. Before breakfast, after putting your kids on the bus, after dinner, and before bed. Steal every moment you can to paint. 

Put off hanging with friends, getting out of the house, exercising, and pretty much anything else that brings you joy. Despise the paint, the color you chose, and anything that gets in the way of your mission to finish.

Develop pain in your right hand. Tell yourself it must be arthritis, because you’re approaching thirty-six. Don’t admit that it’s because you are painting all the freaking day.

Eventually you will finish. When you do, stand back and marvel at what you’ve done. All the days, all the paint, aches and bad days have ended. The kitchen looks bigger, cleaner even. It nearly killed you, but damn it’s beautiful.

Be proud. You did it on your own.

A Letter to the Tooth Fairy

Dear Tooth Fairy,

This letter is two years and eight teeth overdue. Let’s be honest. I don’t like you very much. You sneak into my child’s room in the middle of the night, climb into her bed and take her teeth. What is wrong with you? I mean, at least Santa leaves gifts wrapped in shiny paper, and the Easter Bunny gives sweet-smelling chocolate. But you and all your tooth-hoarding? Creep-y.

I know, I know. I drank too much wine last night and forgot to contact you regarding the swap. Instead, I brushed my teeth, put in my mouth guard and fell asleep watching The History Channel. Honest mistake and not the last time it’ll happen. But then before six this morning, Reagan stomped into my room to tell me the Tooth Fairy had forgotten her…again. I messed up, and how did I cover up the Tooth Fairy mess-up? With a big ol’ lie. I fed her some rubbish excuse that she didn’t get to bed in time, and The Tooth Fairy ain’t got time for that.

And I hate all your crazy-ass rules. According to you, we must hide the tiny tooth in a microscopic box and put it under our child’s sleeping head. Then you come in there in the middle of the night when you’ve most likely had a bourbon or two. I worry about you tripping on something or poking my daughter in the eye whilst making the switch. Too many things can go wrong. Lightning could crash at the exact moment you take her tooth, illuminating your hunched figure and tattered wings near her bed. Her alarm clock could become possessed and beep manically, waking her in time to catch you sliding a wad of cash beneath her head.

Your rules set us up for failure. Ridiculous. Why can’t we just have our kid toss her tooth in a zip-top bag and tape it to the front of her bedroom door? Then there’s no chance of waking her up when you swap out the tooth for some cash. Bada boom, bada bing. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

And while we’re on the subject of money, who is supposed to determine the cost of a tooth? I’ve heard anywhere from $1.00 – $10.00 is the going rate. You know kids talk, right? When I was little, we all got fifty cents. Inflation may be a mother, but you tooth fairies need to get your collective stuff together. Kids are going to start wondering why they got more than their neighbor in school. We should go low. It’s a tooth, for God’s sake. If they want money, make them do manual labor. Losing a tooth is zero work.

My kid likes to hang on to hers until it literally flies out while she’s whistling. She won’t let anyone yank it or tie a string around it. Why is that deserving of a crisp bill?

In closing, I’m tired. So tired, so I’m throwing in the tooth treasure box on this relationship. I mean it. We’re tossing the teeth in the trash and forgetting you ever existed.

Not so sincerely,

Angry (and Slightly Hungover) Mom of Two

Bit by Bit

Tonight, my daughter is having a sleepover with a friend. It’s not her first sleepover. She’s had several this year. But this pang in my heart, loss of breath in my lungs, gets no easier with time.

I worry about her, miss her laugh, and wish to hold her while she’s gone.

It’s not any different from the first time she slept through the night with no need for milk or snuggles at three a.m.. And just like when she didn’t need me to catch her at the bottom of the playground slide anymore.

I’m sure it’ll be the same or harder when she goes on her first date, drives the car alone with her new licence, or moves into her first apartment.

Little by little, she grows up and away.

And bit by bit, I have to let go.

Knowing this, I look forward to tomorrow when she sails through the front door sharing sleepover stories about the brownies they baked and the front walkover she finally had the courage to complete. I’ll bend to smell her coconut shampoo.

At least for now, she still lets me brush her hair.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Flicker

Last year, I bought a lantern for our cabin and filled the batteries for storm season. My child played with it in the “woods” of her darkened bedroom.

Last week, power flickered. I flipped the lantern switch. The batteries may have died, but we never lost the light.

Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels

How To Hit A Deer With Your Minivan On Moms’ Weekend


  1. Drive four hours with your two best friends to the mountains for some kid-free mom time skiing on the slopes.
    1. Make sure you leave the dads with enough frozen peas and baby carrots. If you don’t, the kids won’t eat their veggies and you’ll be freaking out for two full days instead of letting your messy bun down.
  2. When you arrive at your tiny condo at the bottom of the mountain, light the fire and drink too much wine. This won’t work unless you all drink, so fill all red plastic cups and blame it on the switchbacks and fog for needing a little something, something, to calm your nerves.
  3. Go to bed at four in the morning, because nothing good happens after two a.m., and you want – no need – to remove yourself from motherhood and be nothing good for the night.
  4. Wake up at ten a.m. when your husband calls to see how the slopes are. The lifts opened one hour ago and you’re in no shape to be getting out of bed just yet. At this point, you know you won’t be putting sticks on your feet and sliding down any kind of hill. Not gonna happen.
  5. Eat all the vegan brownies and Tylenol for breakfast with Mom 2. Joke about how you’re all too old to be drinking that much and going to bed that late. Lay back down until the Tylenol kicks in.
  6. Plug your ears when Mom 3 wakes up and barely makes it to the toilet to puke. She’s obvi a total rookie.
  7. Once you’ve all showered, go to the top of the mountain for greasy lunch. Burgers, sweet potato fries (because they’re healthier, duh), and Bloody Marys all around. You choke down the Bloody Mary. It’s not that you want to drink, but hey – hair of the dog, amirite?
  8. Decide to go tubing to salvage what’s left of the weekend.
  9. In the minivan, aka The Swagger Wagon, share funny stories like, “And once, my daughter confused a pantyliner for a giant Band-aid.” You’re a mom after all, and you can’t ever fully leave your children at home, even on a moms’ trip. It’s okay, though, because this is what you needed. Not the booze or skiing, but a weekend with your friends full of fun.
    1. Hear Mom 2 gasp, interrupting the laughter.
  10. See a deer jump in front of your moving tank, slam on the brakes, get a new understanding via personal experience for the term “deer in headlights.” That fucker won’t move.
  11. Connect with her eyes, illuminated by your car’s front end just before she turns in a too-late-dumbass attempt to run away.
  12. Only hit her in the butt going ten miles an hour before she scampers off, uninjured into the woods. Pull over and cry for her with your friends.
  13. After you pull yourself together, finish driving to the tubing hill.
  14. Once there, laugh, careen down the hill, act like a child.
  15. Have fun. Have so much fun.
  16. After tubing, eat a pile of chips and salsa and tell dirty jokes with your friends because the best cure for a hangover is laughter and carbs. Always more carbs.

*Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Red

A holiday toast to my husband:

Brighter than the shade of rubies in my ears, deeper than the scarlet smeared on my lips, richer than the aged merlot in my glass, is the love my crimson heart carries for you after sixteen Christmases together.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

Eighties Ski Jumpsuits Make Gnarly Conversation on the Slopes

We are on a four-day, adults-only ski-cation in Vermont. My daughters are six and one, back home with my mother-in-law. I’m stoked because it’s the first time I’ve been away from my youngest child, who is recently walking and hellbent on killing me. I love my kids and I’ll miss them, but I’m ready to take a chill pill and throw all caution to the wind as I sail down icy trails if you know what I mean.

Unfortunately, all my female friends bail on the trip. Too expensive? Too far? Too many loud dudes with stinky feet in a small house? I have no idea their reasons, but I do know I’m the only girl at this gorgeous chalet with a private sledding hill in the middle of two iconic ski resorts, Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch, in upper Vermont. Like I’d miss all this because of some stinky feet? As if!

We spend the entire first day in below zero temperatures on a two-chair lift that s-l-o-w-l-y spans one of the biggest, if not the biggest, mountain on the east coast. It takes longer to go up than it does to go down.

So, day two my butt has freezer burn and my lips are dry and cracked like the Sahara Desert. I need a laid-back, go-at-your-own-speed, drink-peppermint-schnapps-from-the-flask kind of day.

Everyone else agrees, so we dust off the eighties ski jumpsuits and prepare to make a rad video with mountains, neon colors, vintage sunglasses, and big hair. Unfortunately for me, I forgot my crimper at home.

I have to say, Wes has the best jumpsuit. He says he bought his online from some specialty Italian retro-thingy-online store. He also paid more than $200 for his dayglo white, green, and pink ski suit. That’s just bananas. Justin, my husband, found his butt-huggers online as well. It’s a woman’s jumpsuit and, as the loving nickname suggests, it’s rather tight on his bum. I do like the blue and yellow, though. I kind of wish it fit me. Then there’s Jay’s. That thing is just heinous. I can’t believe he paid a hundred dollars for his black, purple and Ecto-green outfit. Gag me with a spoon. Even in the eighties, I bet they thought it was grody.

Mine, however, mine is glorious.

It’s turquoise with a pop of purple and an elastic belt with one of those plastic clasps we used to pinch our fingers in as kids. Totally tubular. And, the best part, is that I found this baby at Goodwill for $9.99. My new nickname on the trip is Goodwill Queen. I aint’ mad about it either. These boys can go ahead and spend stupid money on their used eighties ski jumpsuits. Looking at the four of us, you can’t tell who paid top dollar and who got hers for a steal. We all look like idiots.

I go the entire day with a wedgie that spans my supposed-to-stay-put undies, my base layer, and the jumpsuit. But the mild pain is so worth it when the ski lift operator says, “you guys are winning the week.”

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After we bounce, I pick the song Jump as our home video’s background song, because it’s pretty much the best eighties song ever. For more fun, you can watch our home video here.

Comfort

In sixth grade, I strode into your bedroom to find you situated on your bed with your Stephen King book in hand. Eyes almost closed, but not quite.

Settled.

Still.

Scruffy flannel pajamas snuggled your body. Antique quilts swaddled the bed. Your glasses had slipped to the bottom of your nose, like always, and you hadn’t yet shoved them back up.

Snug.

Safe.

Soft white light whispered to the shadows in your corner of the room. I didn’t say anything. Didn’t have to. But I needed to be close to you. At your side. A daughter needs her mother.

So I slid into your bed. Opened my R.L. Stine book. Exhaled.

It would have been different had we known what was to come; cancer.

Chaos.

Chemotherapy.

At that moment, we would’ve had conversations about life. About close family I never had the chance to meet. About what you were like as a child.

You’d show your candor, your true colors. But that knowledge, that experience, would’ve come at a cost.

No quiet.

No calm.

No comfort.

But we didn’t know. Not yet. Instead, only our steady sighs and the shooshing of turning pages swept against our ears. Everything else turned silent because it was our space, our time.

Serene.

Sound.

Had we known, we would have gained something. But we would have lost so much, only to watch the clock.

Photo by Umberto Del Piano on Unsplash

Ready to Go

“Are we ready to go?” My husband looks at me with excitement. In most other ways he’s a grown man full of reasoning and intelligence, but his eyes are round and child-like. It’s one of my favorite features of his.

We both have our Snowshoe, West Virginia hoodies on and beanies hugging our heads. Our SUV is packed for our bi-monthly three-day trip to our ski house, tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains. It will be a weekend of fun in fresh powder.

Socks, coats, kids, and dogs are spilling out of the car’s various doors. We are as close to machine-like as possible with our packing; we are so good at preparing and getting there. Of course … there are always hiccups. That’s life.

“We’re ready.” I nod.

I give him a quick kiss on the cheek, and I notice the stubble accumulating. One day without shaving for his job as an attorney and his facial hair is already taking over.

I climb in the passenger side and Justin takes the wheel. Once seated and buckled, I turn to check on both girls, who are also buckled safely with smiles anchoring their faces to the backseat.

“You excited, Reagan?” I say, but my seven-year-old with blond, bouncing waves and freckles dotting her cheeks like confetti is humming along to Taylor Swift on her hot pink iPod. It’s loud enough for me to hear. I tap her leg.

She lifts her headphones off her ear. “Yeah, Ma?”

“Excited?”

“Sure.” She looks down, then back to my face with alarm. “I forgot Pinky Lou in the house!” Pinky Lou is her favorite stuffed panda bear that only leaves her side on rare occasions.

“I’ll go get her,” I say and reassure her with a smile. “Can I have the keys?” I ask Justin, who is setting up the navigation. He hands them to me without looking up.

I climb out of the SUV and unlock the door. Inside, I find Pinky Lou on the counter, legs up, and looking pitifully alone. I laugh to myself, grab her and run back outside.

Inside the car, I toss the stuffed bear into Reagan’s lap and re-buckle.

“Thanks, Mom.” She smiles.

I look at my almost-three-year-old. Straight wisps of brown hair frame her round face. “How about you, Ashlyn? Are you excited?”

She nods at me and runs her fingers along the soft fleece of her Frozen blanket because she is always finding fun. If she doesn’t have a toy close by, she plays with whatever she can get her chubby fingers on. “I need a snack, Momma.”

“Sure. What would you like?”

“Apple!”

“You got it.” I look at Justin, scrolling through his Spotify playlists. “Where are the snacks?” I ask.

He looks over and grimaces. “In the very back of the trunk.”

“Well, that’s a terrible place for them.” I roll my eyes. “Hang on, Ashlyn. Mommy is getting you a snack.” I unbuckle my seatbelt for the third time.

“Don’t stress,” Justin says while plugging his phone into the USB. “I’m excited to get there too, but we’ll get there soon enough.”

 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Betrayal

It’s the summer after seventh grade, and my best friend is Haley, a tall blonde full of moles. There are ten of them shaped like a soda bottle on her back. I wish my freckles could be as cool.

“Don’t be jealous,” she says. “You have so many. I bet we could find something there if we tried.”

Haley lives at the end of my street in a yellow Tudor. It’s massive compared to my parents’ bungalow. I walk to her house every day, and she teaches me to fit in.

“These jeans don’t fit me anymore. Want them?” She tosses a pair of Levis on the bed.

“Wow. Thanks!” I have never in my life owned a pair of brand name jeans.

We swim in her pool during the day and play Ouija board in her parents’ pop-up camper at night. Some nights, we summon so many spirits I make my step-dad pick me up in the rusted minivan instead of walking home. The single-wide trailer park on my street gives me the heebie-jeebies at night. Half the trailers have boarded-up windows, but others have foldable lawn chairs and little pots of annuals out front. It’s a strange addition to our otherwise bland street.

One day while waiting for Haley to get home from her boyfriend’s house, I meet a new girl in the neighborhood. She stops her bike in front of my house, anchors it between her legs and says, “Hey.”

I stop the porch swing. “Hey.”

“Wanna be my friend?” she asks, chucking a pop-it onto the ground. She tosses another, and it snaps as it connects with the pavement.

“Sure. Can I have a pop-it?” I hop off the swing and jog down my steps to her.

“Sure.” She hikes her leg over her bike and parks it on the sidewalk. Then in one graceful swoop, she flips her crimped blonde hair over her shoulder and dumps sawdust and pop-its into my hand. “I’m Kristin.” She flashes a big smile.

“I’m Danielle.” I smile back.

“Cool.”

“You just move here?” I ask, throwing another onto the sidewalk. It doesn’t pop, so I stomp on it.

“My dad did. He lives in a trailer down there.” Kristin nods sideways toward the trailers. “I’m here for the summer.”

“Are those dangerous?”

“The pop-its or the trailers?” She jokes.

I laugh. “The trailers.”

“Nah.” She shrugs. “Mostly old folks.”

“Cool. Where you from?”

“Florida. With my mom.”

“I’ve never been there,” I say in awe. Kristin has a special magic, a glue that draws me toward her.

I find out she’s the same age as me, we both like to ride bikes, and we’re both poor. Or at least her dad is.

When Haley gets home, I invite her to come with us on our bike ride to the park.

“It’s too hot,” she says. “Go play with your new friend. We’ll catch up later.”

Haley invites us to come swimming that afternoon, and Kristin won’t go.

“I only swim in the ocean,” she says.

I have just a month with my new friend, so I don’t go either. I figure Haley has her boyfriend, and now I have Kristin. It’s even.

Two weeks fly while I spend every waking minute with Kristin. I don’t see Haley at all, and I miss her.

So, when she calls and says, “I need to talk to you … Alone,” I go.

My fingers graze the diamonds of the chain-link fence along the front of the last trailer in the trailer park making a soft clinking sound. I’m thinking about how my skin will smell dirty and metallic when Haley startles me by screaming “You’re a terrible friend!” She’s suddenly in front of me and so close to my face. I’m worried she may punch me for no reason.

“What?” I ask, freaked by the level of her voice. “What did I do?” I don’t know. I really don’t.

Her face is flushed and eyes are wet. She’s been crying. I wonder why she’s so sad. Haley pulls photos of us from her pocket and rips them.

“You picked that girl over me,” she says. She turns and stomps away, leaving me with shreds of our friendship at my feet. “One day you’ll get it.”

At the end of the summer, when Kristin goes home, I do.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay on Pexels