My sinuses have always been a wreck. Every purse I own is at Level: Grandma with its 7,000 crumpled tissues jammed into various crevices because I am constantly sniffly and/or goose-honky from being congested. On the rare occasions I’m not sneezing or blowing my nose, I’m clearing my throat because of drainage. Oh, and whenever I exercise, my nose goes into overdrive and I sound like Trump during those early debates: snffffff. SNURRRRFF. SNNK!

Whatever’s going on with my face-holes has been problematic for as long as I can remember, but towards the end of my pregnancy with Dylan, my nose just … sealed up completely. As if I’d packed cement in each nostril then superglued them shut for good measure. The only way I could breathe was with my mouth hanging open, like a dog — a rotund, giant-titted, farty dog — and I don’t think I endured that for long before I bought some Afrin.

You know Afrin, right? The stuff you snort and it magically opens your airways with a burny whoosh, and it’s like that scene from Young Frankenstein when Madeline Kahn has sex with the monster (who I guess had a Giant Abby Normal Dong?) and she’s like OHHHH SWEET MYSTERY OF LIFE AT LAST I’VE FOUUUUND YOUUUUUUU?

So anyway I used Afrin every day for like seven years after that.

As it turns out, the small print on the Afrin bottle where it says, “Warning: this stuff works, but if you use it for more than a couple days it will fuck you up like whoah”? Dude, they are crapping you negative on that one. If you use it too long, say for instance because you’re heavily pregnant and your nose functions about as efficiently as Voldemort’s, you will get what’s called rebound congestion which means you are now Afrin’s bitch FOREVER.

It would be embarrassing enough to admit I had a years-long addiction to nose spray if the rest of my, ah, dependency resume was squeaky clean, but add in the rest of it and, well, yeah. I’m not proud.

I’ll tell you, though, being able to breathe is a seriously powerful motivator, and every time I tried to just muscle through the rebound effect I caved. Eventually, having a nasal spray bottle within reach at all times just became part of my life, as inconvenient and expensive as that was.

Ironically, I was forced to quit when I went into rehab. Not because anyone thought I was catching an oxymetazoline high, but because all non-essential medications are off-limits. The timing was actually perfect, because I was so distracted with … *gestures vaguely at the charred and smoking landscape my life had become* I didn’t really even register what was happening congestion-wise.

I’m back to my chronic pug-sniffle, these days. I have to rotate sides when I’m sleeping at night because half my head tends to get blocked up. Every time I take a shower I stand in the steam until the hot water runs out because it’s so thrilling to breathe clearly. But by god, I am free of the tyranny of that little white bottle.

Take it from someone who has never met a life lesson she didn’t choose to learn the hard way: saline. SALINE ONLY. Also, if you ever need a dusty, wadded up Kleenex, I am there for you. I also have mints.

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Last weekend Dylan turned nine and I did not make him a homemade cake. Whew! There, I said it. It came from Dairy Queen, okay? Someone else made it out of likely-dubious ingredients and frosted my son’s name into the top and the only way I contributed was by clicking some buttons on a web form and it was DELICIOUS.

In fact, I haven’t made a birthday cake in years. I used to — my go-to recipe was a no-pecan version of Pioneer Woman’s sheet cake — but somewhere along the line both my kids gravitated towards the process of paging through bakery design books and picking out exactly what they wanted, and frankly, I am thrilled that the cake part of their birthday celebration is now a relatively small problem I can throw money at. The evening before the big day, I may be knee-deep in incompatible decorating logistics (for instance, this year Dylan said he wanted a “theme” of his three very favorite things, which are currently Roald Dahl, basketball, and … Arnold Schwarzenegger) but I am by-god not fretting over whether or not I will screw up the cake.

Of course, I’ve pretty much just swapped Cake Anxiety for Cake Guilt, because even though my kids love their store confections some family member inevitably asks in front of the whole group if I made it myself which is like being forced into Cersei’s naked walk of atonement. “Well, no. (SHAME!) I mean, it IS in a Safeway box and features a professionally-rendered Oregon Ducks logo so it seems like that was a bit obvious. (SHAME!) But thanks for this opportunity to publicly confirm it’s made with high fructose corn syrup instead of a mother’s undying love! (Dingle ding ding SHAME!)”

Anyway, Dylan had a lovely birthday, DQ is the bomb, and there’s no denying it, these boys are growing up. Nine is awfully close to a full decade and Riley’s going to be in middle school (!) this fall and my gosh, it’s like every year the pages just go flipping by faster and faster and faster.

fam

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