Sunday, May 27, 2018

Man! There are a lot of holes in my neighborhood

Our young neighbors Bob and Claire are wonderful —which is a fricken relief because we basically share a yard. A flat, treeless yard. When my kids are drawing with chalk in our driveway or playing with the hose, Bob and Claire can watch us from their dining room window until they die of boredom. Likewise, when Bob and Claire grill on their porch or prune their hostas, we can watch them 'till the cows come home.

And we do — we watch each other. It's a running joke. "I saw you with your groceries. Too bad your watermelon fell and cracked in the driveway. I would have eaten some." And "I saw you mowing your lawn and sneezing and coughing. I didn't mean to laugh, but I did."

We're like cats watching cat TV — it's hard to look away. It's lame, but it's a slow neighborhood.  

Neither of us can plant trees or put up a fence because of an easement with the property. I've done my best with decorative plants and shrubs but yah, none of them are high enough to hide their house from plain view.

Usually it doesn't bother me. Our friendship with Bob and Claire is straight out of "We Have The Best Neighbors Ever." They watch our dog when we go away, even if she smells like skunk. We watch their dog and one-eyed cat. If I lock myself out of my house, Bob leaves his in-town job and lets me in with his extra key. This happens more than I'd like to admit.

And, to be honest, they're kind of like movie stars. They have a million friends. When Bob mows the lawn shirtless, half the neighborhood peers out the window. Ditto for when Claire sunbaths in her bikini.

But then sometimes, like the first summer I had my third son, Cam, I wished I could erect a 50-foot brick wall to hide from them because you know, it's kind of hard to look like you have your shit together when you have three kids — and one of them is a baby.

There Bob and Claire would be, grilling and laughing with their friends, and I'd be rocking Cam in his stroller in the driveway, praying he'd take a nap — for awhile it was the only way he'd sleep — and I would be sweaty and exhausted and starving and lactating, and Junior and Everett would yell from the kitchen window, "MOM! What's for dinner? MOM! We're starving!" and Cam would start screaming again and then I'd want to scream "Just eat your fingers for Pete's sake!!"

I hated it. I didn't want to let my neighbors hear Cam cry. I didn't want them to hear Junior and Everett yelling.

I couldn't let them see I was losing it.

I started parking the car closer to the kitchen window so I could hide behind it and rock Cam and keep an ear out for Junior and Everett. I'd cry a little. Sometimes I'd cry a lot. Meeting the needs of so many people is overwhelming. Doing it while listening to your buff, childless neighbors laugh and drink wine only exacerbates matters. 

But life is funny. 

Cam is three now; his driveway napping days are over. Junior and Everett are older and can actually get themselves a snack if they're hungry. I no longer approach dinnertime like Rocky going into the 15th round. In short, it doesn't make me burst into tears.

Bob and Claire now have a one year old, and they just found out they have another on the way. They'll have a toddler and a newborn at the same time

Sleep deprived, stressed and trying to handle Claire's morning sickness, I overheard Bob whisper to Chuck this weekend, "How do you survive it?"

Chuck shook his head and said, "You just do." 

I realized how far I've come. We've come. We've crawled out of the hole. Ok, maybe not out of the hole but we are a hell of a lot closer to the top than we were before. Or, if parenthood were a series of holes, we've climbed out of some of them. Unless we have a puker, we sleep through the night. Bam, there's one hole. We can leave the house without a diaper bag. Bam! There's another hole. We don't use sippy cups anymore. Bam! I only wipe one other person's ass besides my own. Bam! That's a huge hole.

Yup. Now we'll be the ones listening to their kids scream — maybe over the sizzle of the grill and the clink of wine glasses. And maybe, just maybe, a few more shrubs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

We all have our vices. Mine are just...bulkier

I've been away from this blog for awhile. I know.

But see, we are trying to move. Just thinking about moving is hard, but actually trying to move is even harder. I guess, logically, moving from trying to move to moving itself is the hardest — say what?— but we're not there yet. We're in the purging and painting stage.

And in the disagreeing about where to move to stage.

But that's another blog post.

As part of our "Look! Our small, over-crowded house has more room" plan, Chuck cleared out one half of our unfinished basement. I helped but truth be told, half of the mess down there were wires and cables he's brought home. It's an odd thing to hoard, but he's in the IT field and we all have our thing. Mine is rugs. Mostly floral.

And blankets.  Mostly (again) floral.

I wish I felt the urge to hoard something smaller, like thimbles, but alas, I'm drawn to large squares of fabric. Jute, cotton, wool, fleece. I can't help myself.

Chuck braved the dank, spider-ridden crevices of the basement. He vacuumed. He cleaned the cement walls. He hung curtains and bought rug squares (I'll never let them go!). He even set up desks and lights. Then the older boys — 10 year old Junior and 7 year old Everett — brought all of their Legos and video games down to the newly created Small Man Cave and eagerly closed the door behind them.

That left me and Cam, standing in the now almost vacant den. It was eerily quiet.

 "Hello?" I jokingly called out.

"Yah Mom?" Junior and Everett yelled through the floor.

"Are you gone, just like that?" I called.

 "We'll be back up for dinner!"

I had the strange feeling that they'd left for college. Of course they were right downstairs, in the basement, but the packing up and moving part wouldn't leave my mind. It all happened so fast. And I was left with such a mess of Lego parts and quiet.

I remember when Junior was one. I wrote a post about him growing up. It seems unbelievable that he'll be 11, but what is more unbelievable is how your older children accelerate the growing up process of their siblings. As if the oldest grabs the hand of the younger child, and so on, and they form a chain and zip through time. All you can do is stand in a fuzzy haze and watch. Thanks to Junior, Everett is as smooth and cool as a tweenager. And Cam. The kid is three going on 21.

Back in 2008 — gawd this blog is old — I wrote about Junior: "... I kept thinking, I am pouring my soul into this child and every day letting him go and it is enough to burst and break my heart at the same time."

I still feel that way. Times three.


Personalized quilts with their faces. That's how I'll manage I guess. I'll get quilts and more quilts beaming with my children's faces, and Chuck can cuddle his wires and I'll cuddle my blankets and hopefully we won't strangle ourselves in quilts and cords when no one's home to see it.

Sniff, sniff. The nerve of those kids! Leaving us all alone to fend for ourselves!

Someone hand me a rug square?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The most beautiful yet trying, soul sucking gifts in the world

I want to write a post about how hard it is to be a parent, but I don't want anyone to think this is a woe-is-me post or a we-parents-have-it-so-tough-so-pity-us post. Because it's not.

But goddammit, being a parent is fucking hard.

First, there's the baby. Right out of the gate, getting the baby conceived and then birthed has its challenges. There's infertility, sperm swimming the wrong way, IVF, miscarriage, early labor, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, motherhood after 40 (AMA), you name's a crapshoot. 

But it's also beautiful. A baby is the most wonderful gift in the world.

BUT. Then you have to feed the baby and keep it clean and healthy. Again, challenges. Breastfeeding. Formula feeding. Hormones. Post-partum. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Advice from fellow parents. Advice from your parents. Should you buy organic food. Store bought food. Make homemade food. Should you buy organic soap. Store bought soap. Make homemade soap. What if the kid has gas. GERD. Loose stools. No stools. Diaper explosions. Colic. Nap schedules. Sleep training. Crying it out. Remember the vaccines. Fix the diaper rash. The eczema. The teething gums. The cradle cap. The blocked tear ducts. Colds. Boogers. Wipe its ass. Wipe its nose.

What about your ass and your nose? Nope. No time for that. You've got a baby.

You also have laundry. You also haven't slept. You're arguing with your partner because you're sleep deprived zombies and when you try to hug or get horizontal your breasts leak and your stitches tear. You're overwhelmed. But hey! Your four weeks of maternity leave is up. Time to grab your breast pump and get back to work!

In a blink, your baby becomes a toddler. Now you really can't go anywhere because your life is surrounded by baby gates. Add in tantrums. Daycare. Babysitters. Grandparents. Potty training. The alphabet. Old McDonald. Separation anxiety. 1-2-3. Naps. No naps. Nap schedules. PBS. Hours at the playground. Running up the slide. Finger foods. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Sleep regression. Lost stuffed animals. Monsters under the bed. Pre-school. Meltdowns. Tears. 

But it's also beautiful. A toddler is the most wonderful gift in the world. 

There are tickles. First steps. Songs. Hugs. Kisses. Laughter. Homemade art projects. "Mama." Stories before bed. "Dada." Big Bird. The Muppets. Cuddling. Hearing your kid whisper "I love you" makes it all worth it. Most days. If you decided to throw another kid into the mix, let me say again, having a baby is the most wonderful gift in the world. But you just slid down the chute back to the beginning. 

You are an animal.

In a blink, your toddler becomes a little kid. You can leave the house more easily. Great! But you know how you made your kid watch only PBS and you didn't use swear words in the house and you tried to instill proper values like respect and kindness into your kid? Well, some asshole on your kid's bus just shot ALL of that to shit. In one bus ride. Suddenly your kid knows words like fuck, dyke, dick, asshole, gay. Your kid knows about Sandy Hook. The true awfulness of it. Your kid is having nightmares now. 

Your kid is five.

There are school milestones to meet. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Bullies. Field trips. Stifling playground rules. Safety. Safety first. Safety second. Helicopter parents. Conferences. Homework. Sports. Boy Scouts. After school clubs. Friends. Common Core bullshit. Sleepovers. Birthday parties. Your car becomes a taxi. You've amassed enough toys to fill a Toys "R" Us. You step on toys. Curse them. Accuse them of copulating. 

Every day, it seems, your kid knows something new, something you wish the world would have kept to itself. Kim Kardashian's ass. Kim Kardashian's breasts. Curse words. Hatred. Violence. Lockdown drills. Fear of the dark. Of what's in the closet. You try in vain to shepherd your kid back to PBS, back to sweetness and innocence but you can't, the world is sucking him into the grit.

But it's also beautiful. A little kid is the most wonderful gift in the world. 

There's a person in there! A person with opinions and humor and bravery and morals and now, before you go to sleep, you lie in the dark and think maybe, just maybe, you didn't fuck up this little person and that maybe he has a chance of being someone great. If you decided to throw another kid into the mix, let me say again, having a baby is the most wonderful gift in the world. But you just slid down the chute back to the beginning. 

You are an amazing, crazy animal.

In a blink, your little kid becomes a big kid. There are more school milestones to meet. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Bullies. Field trips. Stifling playground rules. Safety. Conferences. More and more homework. Sports. Problems with friends. Questions about the opposite sex. Best friends. Questions about the meaning of life. Your car is a non-stop taxi. You are a marathon deed doer, racing from work to school to home to soccer to laundry to homework to the library to work again. You think you ate. You think you pooped. Your life becomes a series of "Just give me a second."

Your kid is 10.

Now you're REALLY enmeshed in the influence of other kids, other parents, THE WORLD. Your kid, thank God, can see the bad kids from the good. But he sees everything. He wants to know what 69ing is. Humping. Rape. Periods. Tampons. Boners. Herpes. 

There's still Kim Kardashian's ass. Kim Kardashian's breasts. Some days you wish that's all there was because it's easier than talking about nuclear war, immigration, influenza, concert shootings, suicide bombers, endangered species, global warming, Trump, abortion, live streaming, murder, hazing, suicide, domestic violence, gang rape, school shootings. 

You rant and rail against "the kid on the bus" — the one who has been filling your sweet child's head with all of the world's ugliness — but you know deep down that this is just part of being a parent. If it's not "that kid" it's social media. It's mainstream media. TV. New Year's Eve. Disney movies. Cell phones. Youtube. Tablets. Video games. Horrible, violent video games. 

You can't keep it out — it's water gushing through holes in the wall. You have to have faith that you gave your child the tools to make good choices, pick good friends, choose a good career. Choose kindness. Choose love. 

But it's also beautiful. A big kid is the most wonderful gift in the world. 

You have real, actual conversations. You discover that some of the things your spouse doesn't like to do — like cook — is something your kid loves to do. You find yourself cutting vegetables and stir frying with your kid. There's laughter. Confiding. When he hurts you with his words he means it when he says I'm sorry. You're not stuck on 1-2-3 or A-B-C but rather, you're exchanging ideas. 

Family vacations are actually fun. You can leave the house without bags of supplies. You can let your kid walk to the park with friends. Before you go to sleep, you lie in the dark and think maybe, just maybe, you didn't fuck up this big person and that maybe he has a chance of being someone great. 

It's heart-wrenching. All of it. It's also fucking hard as hell. 

And I didn't even mention trying to make your marriage work. Or keeping your boss happy. Or maintaining close friendships. Or having some outside interests like running or sleeping or sitting on the couch. And, perhaps the biggest caveat yet, Chuck and I haven't even gotten to the teenage years. At this rate, I'll be bald from stress and have had 10 heart attacks before my three kids arrive at that pit stop. 

All I ask is that if you see me along the way, you'll do something nice, like buy me a beer or tell me I have a granola bar stuck to my shirt. Because this shit is hard. I promise I'll do the same. 

Unless you're the asshole parent of that little jackass peckerhead on the bus.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Costumes: They're not just for Halloween and they should probably cover your fanny

I wish I could lie and say that everything's been peachy since we had our family-wide meltdown. It's been better, but it's also been kind of trippy. Like we hit rock bottom and everyone decided to change their costume for the ride back up, and when we got out of the elevator we didn't really recognize one another.

Except Chuck. He's still bald. And me. I'm still fighting the grays and wishing I got that nose ring 30 years ago. 

We've been working on creative ways for the older boys to handle Cam's tantrums. I asked them if they could try to make it game when Cam runs into the room and takes their toys. I reminded them that he's just trying to play with them.


I never thought they'd actually listen, but low and behold the other day Cam grabbed Junior's Lego jet and when Junior raced after him he yelled, "Hey Cam! I have a cooler, faster jet I want to give you!"

Cam stopped in his tracks and handed Junior the jet. He even accepted the "cooler" replacement jet — which was clearly 10,000,000 times inferior.

It doesn't work every time (the next time it happened, Cam dropped the jet and it broke into a million pieces and Junior raced to his bedroom in tears, muttering, "He ruins everything!" but hey, it's progress).

It was enough progress that I was feeling pretty damn good about my parenting skills — for like, oh, three minutes. Then Junior got invited to a friend's house, and Everett decided to immediately fill the vacant spot in the tantrum department.

How are children so adept at that?

It was yesterday. I had walked Junior out to the driveway so we could wait for his friend and his friend's father to pick him up. Everett came racing outside and demanded to know where Junior was going.

"To a friend's!" Junior said in a haughty voice.

"Don't leave me!" Everett cried. Cam stood at the door yelling, "I want to come outside too!" Chuck was inside pooping. I swear, it's how he manages to evade all the stressful moments.

Just then Junior's friend's father pulled up. Before Junior could take a step, Everett wrapped his arms and legs around Junior's leg.

"Get off me!" Junior shouted.

"I want you to stay!" Everett cried. It was raining. He was still in his pajamas, which were decorated in Christmas moose (meese?). I calmly asked Everett to please stop.

Junior started walking towards his friend's car, dragging Everett with him. Junior shouted, "Everett! You're making a scene. YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO." It was like something out of a romantic comedy. I swear, sad music started playing in the background and the wind picked up just enough to tousle their hair.





I saw it: Brothers. Changing. Growing up right before my eyes. Not toddlers. Not even little kids. But real people with genuine, big people feelings and emotions. Junior is leaving Everett behind, I thought. He wants to break away.

It hurt my heart. I tried not to get choked up. It was easy, given that the friend and the friend's father were gawking at us from their car, and Cam was still screaming at the door. I bent down (this detail will be important in a minute) and helped pry Everett off Junior's leg. I held Everett (all 60 pounds of him) and we waved goodbye. Because I no longer have standards, I used my clothing to wipe the snot and tears off his face.

"He needs to see his friends," I told Everett. "Everyone likes to see their friends from time to time."

When we got back inside, Cam was ecstatic to see Everett. "Will you play with me?" he asked. Everett grudgingly agreed. I said a silent thank you to the universe, hopeful that maybe Cam will help fill in the gaps when Junior is out of the house. Maybe this is the silver lining of being the middle brother. You always have options for playmates.

Chuck finally emerged from the bathroom three hours later. He wanted to know what all the drama had been about.

"Nothing," I lied.

"That's not true," Everett giggled. "Everyone saw Mom's butt."

"What?" I shrieked.

"You have a huge hole in your pants."

"Bend over," Chuck said.

I did. "You have a huge tear. I can see...crack..."

"Omigod," I said.

Moral of the story: I need a costume change too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hulk Hogan's baby gate of choice. For real! I got the scoop!

We've gone through a lot of baby gates in our 10-year tenure as parents. With Junior, our first child, we bought the expensive gates and promptly installed them in every doorway—because that's what first-time parents do. I swear, until we chilled the eff out, Junior's safe walkable area was a hallway.

We bought metal gates with fancy screws. We bought wooden gates that were supposed to be pet friendly. We bought plastic, snapping gates that could bend into neat geometric shapes in the yard. Look! We're such great parents! Junior's playing in an octagon!

When we had Everett, we went into the basement to retrieve all of the old gates and realized we'd lost the hardware, so we bought all new gates. We were more relaxed about cordoning him off. We only had three gates: at the top and bottom of the stairs and into one of the living rooms.

Before I get to where we are now with our third child and baby gates, let's pause a moment and talk about gates. Frankly, they suck—for every age group.

Babies and toddlers hate them. Once they understand that gates are used to contain them, they'll kick and scream. They'll flail themselves against the gate. They'll learn how to climb them and undo them.

Parents also hate gates. If you ever see a picture of a smiling parent standing next to a baby gate it's an outright lie. Because we are so overloaded with responsibility and so short on time, we will do anything to get past a gate without actually unlatching it. I have performed Olympic-level gymnastic feats by climbing over baby gates while balancing laundry, sippy cups and then some. Chuck has tried to jump over gates, only to fall into the front door. But we won! We didn't have to unlatch it!

Pets hate gates. If you have a dog or cat that follows you from room to room, your pet will stare at you sadly every time you catapult over a baby gate and leave them behind. Every.Time.

Finally, let's talk about grandparents. If the hardware is hard to unscrew, grandparents with arthritis and questionable mental faculties will get trapped behind baby gates, just like Bowser and Fluffy. They will stand there, helplessly calling for you. Or they'll start swearing at the gates, which is never good for toddler ears.

Now that we're all well-versed on what a pain in the ass baby gates are for everyone and their uncle, I'd like to show you this:

It's the last remaining gate in our home on what has been a 10-year-long baby gate journey. Gone are the fancy gates and snapping gates. We're down to this beauty, which we put at the bottom of the stairs when I work from home and don't want Cam running upstairs and busting into conference calls.

I love this gate for the mere reason that we all beat the SNOT out of it, and it only cost $19.99. It's been abused by every member of the family—because we are all so sick of gates. We kick it. We call it names. Sometimes, if I trip over it, I throw it against a wall. And it likes it. When it locks into place it sounds like it's going to crack into a million pieces and when it finally succumbs it's such a good fit even Hulk Hogan* couldn't get it to budge. (Seriously, it emits a loud crickety, crackety !!SNAP!! that is so satisfying to hear. If you're a fan of onomatopoeia, you might need new panties.)

My point in sharing all of this is that if you are on your last child and about to say good-bye forever to baby gates, I highly recommend getting a piece of shit gate as your final gate so you can recklessly abuse it, as they've abused you and your family (and pets) for so many years.

You're welcome!

*Sadly, Hulk Hogan would not come to my house to confirm this. But I bet he'd like the gate!

Seen on MovingBabies

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bad Mom in Toddler Town: A wake-up call

I've been reading up on toddlers in hopes of better understanding my soon-to-be three year old, Cameron. He's our third son, but he's so unlike the others that I feel like a first-timer (hence my brilliant plan to escape to a teepee). He's sensitive, dramatic and fiercely independent.


Like most toddlers, he's also prone to meltdowns.

Instead of having a game plan, I've been shooting from the hip with him—and failing miserably. I've gone to that gross Bad Mom spot way too often. Not the cute, funny spot where you drink wine and chuckle with other moms and say, "I'm such a bad mom because I let him wear his pants backwards," but the real, brutally honest Bad Mom spot where you stare at your tear-stained face in the mirror and question your motives for procreating.

The one where you say to yourself, "I HAVE to do better." And even more important, "WE as a family have to do better."

Junior is 10 and Everett is seven. The age range is a tough one. Every time Cam comes running to play with them, they put up their arms and yell, "I'm playing! Don't touch!"

He cries.

Every time Cam is too rough with the cat or dog, they yell, "STOP IT!"

He cries.

Every time Cam is too rough with Junior or Everett, Chuck and I yell, "STOP IT!"

He cries.

It sounds like this:




The low point came this weekend. Everett was playing with cars. He told Cam not to bug him. Cam got upset and threw a car at him. Everett screamed bloody murder. Junior chimed in with his LOUD re-enactment: "Everett was minding his own business! This kid's a monster!" Chuck bellowed, "What is WRONG with this kid?!" And I was left standing there, swallowed up in a sea of tears and screams.

I put Cam in a time-out in his bed. In my loud, castrating, yelling Bad Mom voice I explained that hitting/throwing/punching/hurting is wrong. WRONG!

As I was leaving his room he whispered, "I just want to be alone." He rolled over and faced the wall.

I swear, everything went silent.

His back was so little. His hear was rumpled. His stuffed bear (his beloved "bee-ah") was under his arm. How could someone so small say something so big?

I went downstairs—a woman on a mission—and said, "We need to change. Cam isn't even three. He is trying to figure out his place in this family. And he just told me he wants to be alone." I looked at everyone pointedly. "He would rather be ALONE than be with any of us."

Chuck said, "Wow, that makes me really sad."

I looked at Junior. "From now on, you need to treat Cam like a person and not a bad pet. He's hitting you to get your attention. Redirect him. Talk to him."

I looked at Everett. "From now on, you need to include your brother in some of your activities. He's throwing cars at you to get your attention. Redirect him. Let him join you."

I looked at Chuck. "From now on, if you see me losing my cool you need to step in and give me five."

I told them, like I've told myself, No more yelling. We can all do better. 

I went upstairs and got Cam out of bed. I calmly reminded him that we need to be gentle with people, like we are with the cat and dog.

"Ok," he sniffled. "We do gentle."

"I'm sorry I yelled at you," I said.

"I'm sorry for fwowin' da cah."

I hugged him. "Let's go tell Everett you're sorry."

Yesterday and today were better days. I've starting shutting down the yelling as soon as it starts. I get down on Cam's level and try to see things from his perspective. Was it simply fresh or was there a provocation? How can we help him participate in more constructive ways?

I've dug deeper than I ever have to a pool of patience I didn't even know I had. Seriously, it's so deep (that's actual footage of it) that it's in my fucking toenails. Someday I'll probably have to borrow someone else's body because my patience pools will have runneth day.

I can be Zombie Mom. Body snatcher. Pool drinker.

She's better than Bad Mom.

Any day.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

I should be writing promo copy for the Gap, right?

If you are like me and have a little mom belly...

If you are like me and are feeling dull and washed out complexion-wise because of winter...

If you are like me and want to wear something that can be dressed up or down... need to buy this top from the Gap.

I know from this photo it doesn't look like much to cheerlead about, but it is. I've worn this top with a jean jacket, a black velvet jacket, a dressy black cardigan and a red cardigan and I've gotten a million compliments every time. The top has a flattering bustline. It doesn't cling to your gut (after having three kids that's kind of important), and you can tuck it in loosely if you want to show off your waistline (aren't you all that).

Bonus: The gold sparkle is just enough to make the shirt pop without making you feel like a fan shat kid glitter all over your bosom.

That's all. Just a happy tip from the -10 degree, snow covered corner of Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite.  You can go back to your exciting life now.

Man! There are a lot of holes in my neighborhood

Our young neighbors Bob and Claire are wonderful —which is a fricken relief because we basically share a yard. A flat, treeless yard. When ...