Top 10 Topics In-Laws Should Avoid

Hello, Parents-in-Law! Today’s PSA is brought to you by adult children everywhere.

First of all, we adore your child, and we think you did a mighty fine job of raising him/her. Thank you for that.

Secondly, since we love our spouses so much, we also really want to have a good relationship with you, too. REALLY, we do.

We promise to respect your position as their mother, but there are some things you can do to make this relationship a little smoother, too. In order to make our interactions as pleasant as possible, we ask — we beg — you to avoid broaching the following topics with us. Or at least stop bringing them up over and over and over and over.

1. Where we live. We know you want your kids and grandkids to live near you, but that’s not always feasible for a number of reasons. We don’t appreciate when you keep bringing up the house for sale just across the street from you, or how you know somebody who knows somebody at the a bank who might be able to help us with the mortgage, or how this school district is SO wonderful and how you couldn’t find better neighbors if you searched the world over, and how the neighborhood we’re currently living in seems to be getting *ahem* a little rough around the edges. Enough already. We get it. And it’s not bringing us any closer.

2. The names we’ve chosen for our kids. Your best bet is to just smile and lie if you need to, “That’s nice, dear. Is that a family name?” We’re probably pretty stoked about the names we’ve chosen, and your poo-pooing won’t end well.

3. Feeding our kids. As long as your grandchildren are not wasting away due to malnutrition, this should be a no-brainer. We don’t need a 45 minute lecture on the health benefits of the vitamins you made their dad take when he was a baby, or how you breastfed until he was four and look how he turned out. We’ve got this. And by the way, if you could avoid filling them up with sodas and candy and cookies and stuff while they’re over there visiting with you, after we’ve clearly and specifically asked you not to, that’d be awesome. We know you love our kids and want to make them happy, but if you could find a way to do that without undermining our choices that we have clearly and repeatedly reiterated, that would be swell.

4. How we spend our money. We may be better off than you think, or we could be two seconds away from calling a bankruptcy attorney. Either way, if we wanted to talk about money with you, we would. Even if we had to swallow our pride like acid-soaked broken glass to do it. We’re doing the best we can, and we’d like for you to treat us as adults and respect the fact that we can balance our own checkbooks and we know if we can afford to take the kids to Disney World this year or if we need to wait for a clearance sale to buy that new shoe rack for the kids’ room.

5. How we discipline our kids. While we DO appreciate those funny anecdotes about how our husbands misbehaved as tots, and we probably find ourselves at our wit’s ends with the kids’ temper tantrums sometimes…unsolicited nagging about how we’re letting our kids run amok and how that would never have stood back in the day is distinctly unhelpful. (And even more stressful than the tantrums, truth be told.) You had your chance already with your own children to do things your way. We’re living with a product of your ways, remember?

6. How you never get to see the grandkids. Especially if this comes up during another one of your unannounced middle-of-the-day visits that send us scurrying. Trust us, we know exactly how often you see the grandchildren. If you’d like to see them more often, maybe we could get together with our handy little pocket planners and set up a nice visit sometime soon when it’s good for both of us.

7. Taking sides in our arguments. Sometimes, we’re going to go head to head with your sweet baby boy. Hopefully, we’ll keep our fights to ourselves, but every now and then, one of us may open our mouths and say something unfortunate. While this is going to totally suck for you, you’re going to be in a lose-lose situation, no matter who you side with. If you say he is right, then obviously you’re biased because he’s your son, and if you say we are right, then obviously you’re biased because women stick together in their man-bashing. The best thing you can possibly do is keep it zipped and just suggest they talk it over again when they’re both calm, and leave it at that.

8. Our housekeeping skills. No more passive-aggressive comments about how our house looks “lived in,” or gifts of cleaning products or cookbooks, okay? We get it. We don’t cook as good as you, and our houses will never be as clean as yours. You win. Here’s your trophy. Can we drop it now?

9. Our family planning decisions. Whether you think we should have more kids, or think we’ve got enough already and need to look into sterilization, our reproductive business is frankly none of your concern. We do not want to discuss our sex life with our husband’s mother. Ever. Or his father. Ew.

10. Our appearance. Obviously nothing negative (like a weight gain comment–HELLO), but beware even offering a compliment if there’s a hostile environment already. “You look nice today, dear” can sound a whole lot like “Wow, you do know how to brush your hair every once in a while, huh? Who knew!” to an already stressed-out and keyed-up daughter-in-law. We know it sounds counterintuitive to refrain from compliments, but when emotions are already high, it’s a really good idea to stay away from personal appearance remarks completely.
© 2015 MyLove Barnett, as first published on Scary Mommy

How To Survive Your Mother-In-Law

The relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law can be…well…let’s just say that while some are fairly cordial or even downright friendly, some (can I say “most”?) are the things that nightmares, and Xanax prescriptions, are made of. Over the course of two marriages, and two completely different MIL-DIL relationships, I’ve learned a thing or two. Not only about how to get along better with dear ole MIL, but also how Mommy-in-law Dearest could shape up just a tiny bit, and how we both could learn to be better at this whole sharing-her-baby-boy thing, and also some things that I’ll want to remember for when my own children venture off into relationships of their own, lest I become that monster-in-law of legend. (Not that I can avoid my legend-status; I’d just prefer it be for awesomeness, rather than as a boogey story to scare new fiances across the universe.) With that in mind, here are some handy little tips that I’ve learned the hard way.

1. The first, and most important, item on this list is your husband. If he’s not on board with the priorities, then you are in for one hell of a ride, and it’s best you get that straight right up front. Mom may have been the most important person in his life, and she’s been loving him since he was merely a twinkle in his dad’s eye, BUT…he’s not marrying her. He’s marrying YOU, and you are trying to build a life together. I’m sure that you get the importance of that, but he may not understand all the nuances of the feelings his mom may have of replacement (resentment?) that are bound to take place, or how to deal with it. Mom may have understood it at one time, (after all, she was a young bride herself once), but I’m here to tell you as a mother myself that letting go is fucking HARD. Some women handle it with grace, while some just dig in their heels and turn it into a lifelong game of “Who do you love more? Who are you going to listen to?” 
(This game is also known as “His balls are in a jar on top of MY fridge, not yours.”)
Your man will not enjoy being the pawn in this game of one-upmanship, so if you love him, do him a favor: Don’t play. It’s HIS move; let him make it. Either he establishes the should-be-clear boundary lines, and sticks to it, or he deserves everything he gets. I mean, really. No one actively wants to piss off their mother, but in the Who-Do-I-Make-Happy game, I’d go with whomever I have to sleep next to every night until death do we part, nine and a half times out of ten.

2. Having said all that, it’s also important that you have the self-confidence to stick up for yourself whenever you need to. Preferably with your husband’s 200% support, but even without, you need to make sure that your presence in your marriage is all you, and not just a shadow of her. I’m not saying you should have a lightning round of “Who’s the Bigger Bitch,” every time you’re in the same room, but you don’t have to lay down like a second-hand welcome mat, either. HOWEVER, if you can assert yourself without disrespecting her, do that. If she’s got advice (and she will), what will it hurt to listen to it? It’s a couple of minutes out of your life to let her have her say. Give that to her, at least. You don’t have to throw away all of your own thoughts and take her word as gospel, but who knows? She’s likely got years of experience and hard-won knowledge about life that just might make yours a little easier. It’s worth a listen. Probably. If not, you go on about your business completely disregarding her advice and let her stew in the inevitable I-Told-You-So’s for the next 30 years.

3. Pick your battles. As cliche as it sounds, it’s going to need to be your mantra right up until you’re holding your husband’s hand for the reading of the will, if you happen to land one of the truly heinous MIL’s that you just cannot get along with. Naming your children, buying a house, holiday plans, educating HER grandchildren, when exactly it is (and isn’t) okay for her to pop by unannounced, when it is (and isn’t) okay for her to remark upon the cleanliness of your kitchen (i.e. never), etc… Whether you like it or not, everyone will have an opinion on how you should be making these decisions and conducting your personal affairs, but none more so than dear MIL. You do have choices here, and it’s important to know what they are, so you can decide which one you want to make beforehand, instead of in hindsight. You could

(A.) Not say a damn thing, one way or the other. This includes uttering white lies, like “We haven’t decided yet. We’re still thinking about it.” Or if you’re the more honest and blunt sort, you could go with something like “We decided that we’re not going to talk about [this decision] with anyone else right now.” Or you could just nod absently with a dazed and vacant look in your eyes and then shrug and abruptly change the subject to Cousin Milly’s gallbladder surgery. If you go with that one, she may end up thinking you’re a little off your rocker, especially since Cousin Milly passed on in 1997, but that’s still probably better than entertaining a catfight in the sitting room over naming your first son after your father versus hers. You could also

(B.) Entertain his mother’s ideas and advice, whether you use it or not. If you choose to go with option B, but make different choices than you were advised, be prepared to back up the choice to ignore her wisdom with a well-thought out line. Preferably something beyond “That’s the stupidest damn thing I’ve ever heard.” I’m just saying. That one doesn’t work very well. Or, you could always

(C.) Move far, far away, and correspond only by hand-written letters sent via snail mail. You can say that you’re shunning technology by not having email, or that you prefer the quaintness of more personal hand-written letters. Whatever. And invest in either an old-fashioned answering machine, or a smart phone with an “ignore” feature in the contact setup that sends certain callers straight to voicemail.

4. Try to remember that she’s a mother, too. As interfering, out-of-touch, or flat out psycho as she may seem, she’s also a woman, just like you, and a mother, just like you. You could very well be staring into your own future every time she graces you with a visit or a phone call. Your own kids will at some point grow up, move away, and then show up at your door one day with some know-it-all interloper trying to usurp your place in their heart. Probably making bad decision, after bad decision, after bad decision, and ignoring all your years of experience at every turn, no matter how sweetly you try to “help.” Can you imagine how that will feel? You can try, but you won’t know it until it happens. All I’m saying is try to cut her a little slack, and try to understand where she’s coming from. And if that’s too hard, or she’s just too much, then take notes and use them as a “What NOT To Do” study guide for the future.

Our Anniversary

A bunch of years ago today (April 29, 2006), my husband and I were wedded. (Edited for future reading!)
Let me tell you about our day:
It was a lovely ceremony, even though it wasn’t quite what we had planned. 
The place where we had contracted to have the ceremony was a lovely old antebellum home, that had been refurbished and preserved, for special occasions. The grounds were lush and gorgeous, and there was a lake, with a curved wooden bridge, and extensive rose gardens, with multiple trellises and swings and benches and whatnot… We had arranged to have our ceremony out in the rose gardens, and then our reception dinner inside.

And then … it rained. And rained. And rained.

Cue the moving of 200 white folding chairs, ALL the flowers and ribbons and tulle and bows and tables and everything…

So instead of walking across the (straight, and even) bridge over the lake, all my bridesmaids and I got to trip and clipity-clop down 2 flights of a winding staircase in our heels, from the dressing rooms above, to the extremely small staging area, where we’d been forced to move.
My Momma, God love her, for some reason wore a barely-off-white dress, (Well, YOU are hardly one to talk about a white dress, honey!) and couldn’t stop crying. Not even long enough for pictures.

My daughter, who was 3 at the time, had long-since discarded her sweet little dress shoes, and presented herself as my maid of honor in her bare feet. 
My son, the ring-bearer, who was four at the time, decided as we were exchanging rings, to cover his face with his hands, as if the sight of our ring ceremony was more than his poor little heart could take. 
Thankfully, that was the extent of the kid-crises of the day, though, and all four of our sweet babies were as good as gold the rest of the time. 
We included vows to our children within our ceremony, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as we recited those vows.

We had decided before-hand that we’d not have any music during the actual ceremony… no song dedications, neither of us would sing, etc… 
So after the vows, our official (who had not only a perm, but also a mullet, AND an earring!) 
said, “By the power vested in me,” etc… 

and THEN he said “And as Eric’s first act of love, he’d like to dedicated this song…”

and I thought I might actually die on the spot. 


You might think that sounds a little bit mean-spirited, but trust me when I tell you that although my man can tear UP a guitar, the boy could not carry a tune in a bucket with a handle even if you paid him in gold.
Thankfully, my impending panic attack was averted as Eric pointed toward the staircase, where our friend Chad sat with his guitar, and began to sing a song they had written for the occasion. 
If I thought that the children’s vows were tear-jerking, the song moment was a sob-fest, for me. Thank God for waterproof mascara!

And then, sooner than you could blink, it was over!

And where normally, you’d have a meandering walk though to the reception…um…we had a tiny problem: Since it rained, our ceremony area had to be in the dining hall, and the chairs were set up for the ceremony, so we all had to vacate so that the staff could rearrange for the reception seating, which included dining tables, and the buffet tables, etc.
And where did we vacate TO?
Oh yeah. Outside. In the rain. 
Half of our guests chose to wish us well and be on their way, opting not to hang around (in the rain) waiting for the reception hall to be cleared. The other half milled around, chatting, hanging out in the parking lot, trying to squeeze onto the porch. The wedding party itself got to go upstairs to the dressing rooms.
Half an hour later, and we were ready to roll. We cut the cake, we made our toasts, I kicked off my shoes, and then we pounded tequila like Congress was about to pass a ban on it.
We finished up the night with reservations at the bar in town where we’d met the very first time, where the waitstaff had a couple bottles of champagne on ice, and the band played slow songs all night for us to dance to. (Our wedding band had been cancelled, as soon as it looked like it might rain.)
We spent the night at our friend’s apartment —the same friend, and the same bed, as the night we met,  and then we drove to Memphis for our honeymoon. We tripped around Beale Street for two days, and it was two totally glorious days, full of greasy, delicious food, and soulful bluesy rocking music.
To this day, I can’t smell tequila, or hear a Stevie Ray Vaughn song, without remembering our wedding/honeymoon. 
And even though we had so much go crazy that day, there’s not a single thing about it that I’d change.

You can hear the original song written for our wedding here.

Guitars, Guitars, Guitars, and more Guitars

My husband is a guitar guy. 
I know. I know. Guitars are sexy. I agree. 
But if you’ve never lived with a guitar guy, then you.have.NO.idea how omfg it can get.
I looooove to hear him play. I do. I really do. But not only does he play guitar, he builds them too. And he always has a “project” going.
“Hey, do you think this pickup would do better in this one, or maybe that pickup would be the way to go here? I wonder if an alder body would give a better tone for this model, or should I stick with pine, because the original was pine, and I’d like to make it as close to the original as possible… If I go with the brown sunburst, and gold knobs, then the hardware for the headstock blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah blah and more blah.”
I swear to God, I’m trying here, but he may as well be speaking Czechoslovakian for all I can understand of it. And nothing I say (I don’t know what you mean. What is this you’re saying to me? I don’t understand. I don’t care. Stop talking to me.) will deter him from providing me with every last detail. And not only details regarding the guitar and its parts and pieces, but also the history of each part and piece, and where it came from, and who made/built it, and who all uses similar things in their guitars, and why this piece is the right piece, and etc. etc. etc.
He says “But I don’t know anything about art, but I still listen when you talk about your paintings!” 
Well, yeah, score one for you. But the extent of my painting conversations with dear hubs proceeds like so: 

“Hey are you busy?” Yeah, I’m painting. “Whatchu painting?” Meh, it’s hard to describe. It’s kind of–interrupted– “Ok, did my Mini-Humbucker come in with the mail? I ordered that Fralin, but I need to replace it.” (and sadly, yes, I know what those terms mean.)

Literally, just this second, he’s YouTube’ing a BareKnuckle pickup, trying to decide whether or not to use it in an upcoming project. “You like this one? Or did the first one sound better?” Well. Hell. I don’t know. It’s a different guitar, and a different song! How am I supposed to tell which one sounds better???
I appreciate being kept in the loop with projects, glad that we have something to talk about other than bills and grades and potty training, and very flattered that my opinion holds weight. But the bare fact is I am guitar illiterate. And after six years, I know just enough to know when to nod and Mmm-Hmm! at the appropriate parts in the conversation. And you would think that after six years, he would know enough to know that I don’t have a clue regarding the words streaming from his mouth, but God love him, he’s still trying! 
I am still trying, too, to pay attention, hoping by sheer osmosis, I’ll pick something up that might aid me in being more that a mute audience in these conversations.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll ask him if he thinks Cerulean Blue is too cool to use for the mix for the background on the neo-expressionist painting project I’m working on… 

Christmas in Dixie

For those of you not in the loop, and I know you’re all just dying to hear…
THIS is how Christmas happened at OUR house: 
Our kids, all but Spawn, were at their other parents’ houses on Christmas morning, so we decided to sleep in, because Spawn doesn’t know any better anyway, and we needed the rest.

I was awakened around 8 a.m. by my SMOKE ALARM going nuts, and Eric shouting from the other end of the house: 
Get out of the house! 
Get out of the house! 
The house is on fire! 
Get out! 
The house is on fire!

I got up, naked, quickly pulled on a nightgown and my boots, and ran up the hall. The living room and kitchen were under a thick cloud of black BLACK smoke, and Eric was out on the porch with Spawn, hopping around foot to foot, hollaring: The house is on fire!

I looked in the kitchen, where I could see there were flames coming out of the oven. I went to the kitchen, filled a glass with water, and threw it in the oven. Pssssshhhhhhhhooosh! 
Fire out. 
More smoke. 
Turned on the vent hood, the air conditioners, and opened the windows.

Problem solved.

Apparently, Eric and Spawn had gotten up earlier. Spawn had thrown a toy in the oven, at some point previously. And then Eric went to put corn dogs in the oven for himself, and didn’t notice the toy laying there below the rack.

The day had nowhere to go, but UP, from there.

p.s. Don’t YOU do that. I have been informed since this happened that you should use salt to put out kitchen fires, since most kitchen fires are caused by grease, and water would just exacerbate a grease fire.


Love Letters on Wet Paper

Dear E~

I miss you when you’re not here, although I don’t always say it.

I miss being able to lay my head in your lap while you stroke my hair. 

I miss the way your eyes crinkle in the corners when you laugh. 

I miss the way you’ll do anything, say anything, no matter how ridiculous, just to make me smile.

I miss the smell of you. I use one of your t-shirts as a pillowcase, just to have something to hold. The smell of your cologne comforts me in the night when I can’t sleep.

I miss the way your body feels so warm snuggled up against my back.

I miss bumping into you in the kitchen every time I turn around, because you only need something when I’m in there trying to do something already.

I miss sitting next to you on the couch, staring at the TV, laughing at the same stupid thing at the same stupid time.

I just miss you.

Come home soon,


**written during a deployment