Friday, October 19, 2018

Why do all of life's turning points happen in the grocery store?

A few weeks ago, my friend Sandy visited for the weekend. I've been feeling more frazzled than usual — too much work, too many commitments, too much bickering between the kids, etc.— so I was extra excited about getting some alone time with my close friend.

I mean, she's the kind of friend who'll visit during a raging flea infestation. What's not to be excited about?

We decided to make dinner, so a trip to the grocery store was in order. 

I'd just been to the grocery store that morning. It had been one of those frantic runs. Chuck and I were the soccer snack parents for a 9 a.m. game and of course, we'd remembered at the last minute. I'd raced out at 8:05 a.m. with no make-up on, shitty clothes, eye goop still in my eyes to spend $50 on pre-cut fruit.

The morning went downhill from there. At 8:45, we couldn't find Junior's shin guards. Everett's cleats were caked in mud. Cam sat on the kitchen floor and wailed to anyone who would listen: "Why don't I have a soccer team? WHY?"

There wasn't enough milk for cereal —"Didn't you just go to the grocery store?" Chuck wanted to know — and, because we sprinted out of the house, the boys left their water bottles on the counter. 


Anyway. On my second trip to the store, my friend and I sat and brainstormed a shopping list. In the quiet of the car, I started to feel funny.

"Do you have orzo at home?" she asked.




"Cherry tomatoes?"


There was suddenly a lump in my throat.

My friend opened her wallet, which had a special compartment for her store cards and coupons, and rifled through them. Then she reached behind her and pulled her neatly folded reusable bags from the floor, stepped out of the car and calmly put the bags into the carriage. 

As soon as I got out of the car, I burst into tears.

I saw myself from that morning, and it was ghastly.

See, I never walk across the parking lot. I sprint. Inside, I never peruse the aisles or reference a list. Instead I talk to myself — usually aloud — and wonder if I need spaghetti sauce or butter, then berate myself for not knowing.

"Why don't you ever make a list?" I ask myself. "You're so stupid! Get it together, dummy!"

I never put food into the carriage, I throw it. My reusable bags are always crumbled into a disgusting wad of old receipts, expired coupons and crusty meat juice. I'm surprised the CDC hadn't come to quarantine them. When I hand my bags to the bagger, I swear he/she grimaces and asks for rubber gloves.

Every shopping trip is like an episode of Supermarket Sweep. Without the free groceries.

I relayed ALL of this to my friend: the dirty bags, the missing coupons, the expensive fruit, the disorganization, the sprinting, the talking aloud, the constant and mean self-recrimination...All the yuck that has become the norm. 

"I want new reusable bags," I cried. "I don't want to live like this anymore. I don't want to be the crazy woman at the grocery store anymore." (It's been going on for years — it's why and how Cam learned to swear.)

After I got my shit together, we drove to a mall, where I got a proper wallet (I'm not kidding, she had a coupon.) I put my cards, cash and stamps in it. We stopped for lunch and a glass of wine. Then we went back to the grocery store and calmly shopped. If we turned down an aisle and saw a frazzled parent with a screaming child, we chose another aisle. (Parenting PTSD is real.)

I bought new, clean, shiny reusable bags.

At home, I unpacked the groceries, then folded the bags and put them into the trunk. I recycled all of my old bags. I also emptied the trunk of a closet's worth of sweatshirts, shoes, toys and coloring books. The kids cleaned their cleats and put them in the shoe bin. I sat down with a pen and the calendar and wrote down the next time Chuck and I are snack parents.

Later that night, after we'd had more wine and I was able to laugh about my meltdown, we set about to making dinner. I opened the cupboard and sighed.

"We did have orzo and garlic," I moaned. "We bought them for nothing. I'm so stup—"

I stopped myself.

"I'm not stupid," I said. "We already have most of the ingredients, so we can make a double batch. You can bring some home, and I can bring some to my neighbor." (My neighbor lost the use of her hand and has a hard time cooking.)

We had a feast. We ate so much we were almost sober again. Almost.

I put some in a container for my neighbor, along with bread and cookies. There was so much food to share, in fact, that I had to put it in...

a reusable bag.

And that is the story of how I didn't kill my neighbor with salmonella — and also how I learned to slow the eff down, use a proper wallet, function like a non-crazy person at the grocery store, and be nicer to myself.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

If you're a parent you need this product NOW

I don't know about you, but having the kids back in school always makes me think of one thing: vomit.

If you've read this blog right along, you know that we get the stomach bug every three days. I've accepted the fact that no matter how much I clean with bleach, Lysol wipes, vinegar, and so on, if the bug is in school or in town or 30 states away, we will all get it.

Because vomit knows no physical boundaries, it has made an appearance in every room of my house and of course, in the car. I can clean puke from a radiator or stuffed animal or even off the dog — our poor dog happened to get caught next to Junior as he projectiled all over the kitchen — till the cows come home, but there's something about gooey puke stuck to car seat belts and in car cushion cracks that makes me want to, yes, VOMIT.

Cam happened to throw up in the car a few weeks ago. (From car sickness, but when it comes to puke does it really matter why it happened?) And I know this is gross but because life has been so busy, I never really had a chance to clean it properly.

Instead, I threw hot water on the seats and coated them with a thick layer of baking soda. Then I sprayed the seats with vinegar and drizzled a few drops of lavender essential oil on top. Then I threw some bath towels over the sizzling, crackling potpourri of mess and opened the windows.

Set it and forget it!

Unfortunately vomit doesn't magically disappear, even under a five inch layer of science experiments. For a month — oops, did I say two weeks? — the kids have been riding around, noses plugged, sitting on what resembles toothpaste — and it's been horrible.

I finally said, enough and decided to invest in a hand-held steam cleaner. It was probably the best decision of my life. I mean look! Look at how well it worked!

It turned my car seat sludge into freshly brewed coffee.*

For real and much, much better tips on cleaning vomit from a car (in case, like me, you just can't get enough) check out this post by Mary Brock: How to Clean Vomit From a Car Seat (in 16 Easy Steps!). It gave me a much needed laugh.

* That's not coffee, but I'm sure you already knew that. And in case you're curious I got the BISSELL Little Green Portable Spot and Stain Cleaner. I now sleep with it I love it so much.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

And now, the thing that saves my marriage...

It is...

It is...

that my husband and I send each other SEXY pictures...

...of traffic during our commutes.  

Ok, it's not at all sexy but the innuendo-laced commentary is: "ugh"—can't you just feel it? UUUGGGHHHH—


The truth is that the shiny back end of a Camry will never compare to sweet Chuck's. If only the asshats in Connecticut would learn how to drive (see related article "Connecticut Has Most Unsafe Drivers in the Country: Report”) then maybe we could move onto something more titillating than illuminated tail lights and the smell of exhaust.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

The thing that almost ruined my marriage this summer...

Is this mother effing pool:

It was four weeks into summer, and not one person who owned a pool had invited us over. The kids were driving me crazy to go to the beach, but yuck! I loathe the salt and sand. Besides, 99% of the beachfront in Connecticut is privately owned, leaving the rest of us helpless saps to trip over each other on the remaining five feet of sand.

So anyway, I bought an Intex pool online at Walmart and picked it up that night. The reviews were good. The price was right (it was on sale for $99). Bam, done.

I dragged the box into the backyard with the help of some neighbors and waited for Chuck to get home from work. When he got out of the car — the poor man commutes an hour each way — he saw me standing there, pointing at the box, and tried to run into the house, but the kids and I each grabbed an arm and dragged him to the backyard, begging him to Please, please, please set this up tonight!

He took one look and said what I KNEW he would say: "We can't put this in the backyard. It's not level."

"But it is!" I argued nicely. (I'd had a few shots of vodka to prepare me for the smackdown.) "It's perfect back here. We can sit on the patio and watch the kids. I can see them from the kitchen window. It's private. It's perfect."

"It's not level."

"But it is!"

"It's not."

"It really is."

"It's really not."

Chuck took my hand and pulled me to our side yard and said, "See? This is level."

To be blunt, our side yard is like an exposed asscrack. Every house in the neighborhood and in the neighborhood behind ours can see our side yard. It's why my phone blows up when I shovel shit in my pajamas.

"Seventy-five children live in our neighborhood," I said. "If we put the pool here, we will never have a moment's peace. Do you want to kill me this summer?"

"It's level."

"It's a death wish."

And so on.

Our voices grew louder and louder, which attracted the attention of our young, fertile neighbors Bob and Claire, who wandered over to say hi — and, incidentally, proved my point about the lack of privacy in our asscrack side yard.

"Everything ok?" Bob asked.

"We're putting up a pool in the backyard."

"It's not level," Chuck yelled.

"But it is!"

Bob and Claire quickly left. 

I went to the backyard, ripped open the box and started assembling the pool myself. "If you won't put it here then I will!"

Chuck, because he is a stand-up guy, sighed heavily and told me to step aside. He said he'd put up the pool under one condition: If the frame bent or the filters didn't work because it wasn't level, it was my own problem to fix. I agreed.

For three weeks everything went swimmingly. Then — d'oh — the pool started to slope. The filters stopped working. The water turned yuck.

It turns out Chuck was right: The backyard isn't level. I swear I had no idea.

"Kids," I said, "we're going to drain the pool and move it to the side yard."

As luck would have it, Chuck got home from work just as we were moving it. He jumped out of his car and yelled, "Oh no! After everything we went through we are keeping that pool in the backyard! The grass is already ruined."

"But it's not level!" I said. 

"AGGGGGHHH" Chuck screamed. I swear I saw Bob and Claire pull down their window shades, just enough to keep them from view.

"Kids," I said, "your father is about to have a heart attack. Help me dig."

So we dug — sweating and sweating — piling the dirt up on a tarp and transporting it away.  

Chuck got his leveler and instructed us on where to dig. The kids moaned. I spurred them on. I moaned. Chuck told us to dig deeper! Faster! It was like a scene from the Colonies in the Handmaid's Tale — except that the overseer, Chuck, got so disgusted with our paltry shoveling skills that he joined in.

Deeper! Faster!

Finally Chuck got his leveler and gave us the thumb's up. We moved the pool back into place.

"Mom?" Junior said hesitantly. "The pool is filthy."

"Then we'll clean it," I shouted. "Get me a brush and the dish soap."

I climbed into the pool, got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the dirt, grime and slime off the pool liner. Hours later, it seemed, I emerged, covered head to toe in brown soap bubbles. I swear, Bob and Claire were still watching out the window.

"Rinse that bitch and fill it up," I yelled. "She's ready!"

So here we are, weeks after that:

The kids LOVE the pool. It's the best fucking money I ever spent. I highly, highly recommend it.* The kids swim for hours, snorkeling and making whirlpools. The water height reaches my toddler's chest. I can watch the kids from the privacy of the patio. No one can see us.

There's just one thing. Now that the dirt has, um, settled, and the weight of the water has really, um, pulled the pool around, it's kind of obvious that even with all of the shoveling the, um, backyard definitely has a serious slope.

Chuck! I'M SORRY. Don't leave me! I love you! We can make it work!

*I also highly recommend the pool cover, pool chemicals, floating chlorine dispense and extra filters.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Free to be Wonder Woman

Awhile ago, my husband Chuck took the kids to ComiCONN (basically it's a convention for comic book enthusiasts). By kids I mean the two older boys. Cam, our toddler, stayed home with me. We're at that point: Chuck and I are old and tired —so very old and soooo very tired — and whenever an event comes up that the older boys want to go to, Chuck and I look at each other and say, "Do you feel like chasing Cam/dealing with Cam's meltdown/leaving if Cam needs a nap?"

Invariably the answer is no, and off one of us goes with Junior and Everett.

ComiCONN isn't really my thing, so I was happy to stay home with Cam. Everett must have thought I felt left out though because he came home and dangled a trinket in front of me.

"You're Wonder Woman, Mom!"

Apparently, he'd insisted Chuck buy me the necklace.

"Put it on! Put it on!" he hollered.

I did.

"It's awesome!" I said. "It'll go great with my Wonder Woman coffee mug, t-shirt, shot glass, pin, Christmas ornament and Lego figurine!"
It's true. It will. I've gotten many Wonder Woman gifts over the years (as well as Princess Leia). When you're the only woman living in a house of boys and those boys are into superheroes and Star Wars, it only makes sense that you're the default female character.

Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe instead of lamenting the fact that I'm always Wonder Woman and Princess Leia (for Christmas I got the figurine in my stocking), I should be thanking my lucky stars the kids aren't showering me with Rockman and Jabba the Hut gifts instead. I have been known to look like this before my morning coffee:

Anyway. On the back of the pendant it said this: 

What I do I do freely and with a clear conscience.

When I read it, I laughed out loud. I laughed so hard my sides ached and tears ran down my face. I was a huge Wonder Woman fan growing up, and yet I'd never heard this line before.

"What is it?" the kids wanted to know.

"Nothing," I said. How could I explain to them that I could not for the life of me think of another line that was in such direct opposition to how I feel as a mother?

I read it again:

What I do I do freely and with a clear conscience.

What I do I do freely? HAH!! More like "What I do I NEVER do freely." Poop? Shower? Chew my food? Read a sentence of a book? Brush my teeth? Check work email? Try on clothes?

Nothing free about doing any of those things with three kids underfoot. Nosiree.

How about ""What I do I do...with a clear conscience?" Another tear-inducing belly roll. Thanks to mom guilt, I won't have a clear conscience about doing things freely — leaving the kids to go swim-up bar hopping for months? Traveling the world instead of washing their clothes? Using our savings for a new BMW cherry red station wagon instead of saving for college? — until the kids are grown and out of the house, and even that's debatable.

"Do you like it?" Everett had asked me later that night.

"I love it," I had answered. And I did. The pendant reminds me of how I want to feel again someday: free to do things freely. The conscience part? Meh. I've had so much mom guilt, I figure I'm due a bank robbery freebie or two.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

When your sons play with your childhood Barbies

They make a man cave.

Ken has everything he needs: food on his lap, his beer fridge, his recycling dumpster, a hamburger, a camera — I hope he's not taking pictures of himself because I'm not sure he's wearing pants under that pink throw — and a space to recline. Of course, his hands are below deck.

When I asked Ken if Barbie could drop by he said, "I only want one person at my place and that's me, Sugar."


The last time these Barbies made an appearance (besides in my actual childhood) was in 2010, when my father dropped them off at my house. Junior played with them as Chuck twitched in the background. Now, eight years later, Chuck just steps over them — the Barbies and the three kids — and sighs.

But it's ok, honey. See that monster truck in the background? There's a varied plate of entertainment at our sons' fingertips. Kind of like the one resting comfortably on Ken's lap — the one he won't share with Barbie because he's a selfish loaf.

I can see my work is cut out for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Summer BBQs from the outskirts...could someone bring me a beer already?

Every summer we go to the same BBQ at Denise and Matt's house for the fourth of July.

We've done it since Junior was a baby and yet, even though I've met and re-met all of their friends for the last 10 years, I've never been able to click with anyone...besides Chuck.

But Denise and Matt are Chuck's favorite friends, and he wants to talk to them. And Chuck is a social butterfly who sees me all of the time, so he doesn't feel like "clicking" with me at the BBQ. Unless it's horizontally — which, considering the gaggles of children running around, would be really inappropriate.

Besides the sort of unfriendly/slightly off crowd and the running children there are also goats, ducks, dogs, cats and rabbits. When I'm not following Chuck around like a lost puppy, I am reminding my kids to watch out for poop droppings from multiple species of animals.

Or I'm reminding my kids to slide down Denise and Matt's playscape slide ON A TOWEL PLEASE, otherwise, their shorts act like a paper towel and soak up the years of grime that's embedded in the slide, and they end up looking like they have track marks up their backs.

By the time we get to the fireworks a few hours later, which send all of the kids and animals into a frenzy — can you picture it? All of the shrieking, baaaing, quacking, barking, meowing and squeaking while the inebriated adults holler? — my nerves are shot.

If you can't tell, I really dread this BBQ.

My one saving grace has been my children. For the first two years we went, after I made nicey nice with all the fellow guests, I followed Junior around the BBQ. Toddlers never sit down, and neither did I, which meant my small talk consisted of "Ooops, there he goes again!"

When Junior was three and ready to run off and play with other kids, I followed Everett around the BBQ. Then, when Everett was three and ready to run off and play with other kids, I got to follow Cam around the BBQ.

So that's where I was this year: following Cam as he said hello to the livestock. As he inspected the trees in the yard for worms — "WOHMS"— and bugs — "Is it dead? Can I touch it? Can I see it? Is it fywin'? Is it jumpin'?" As he played with trucks in the yard.

Along the perimeter of the property, he and I were quiet onlookers. I sat in the grass with him. I was content. He was content.

If I had been sitting alone, Chuck would have given me "the look" and I would have felt guilty (sort of) and tried to make lame conversation with another mother about fruit snacks or cavities or sleep regression — all those stupid parenting conversations. But it's rude to sit alone for hours at a party. I get it. Unless you're drunk and conversing with the trees. Or ants. Then it's okay.

But there, alongside Cam, I wasn't rude. I was a diligent parent. I thought about how, for those of us who are on the shy side or don't click easily with people, a young child can be a blessing in disguise: guilt-free permission to avoid small talk or a reason to leave a dying conversation. Permission to remain on the outskirts.

I wondered about next year, when Cam is four and eager to play on his own more. I wondered about Denise and Matt's BBQ and about all the functions ahead, when I won't have a trusty sidekick with whom to sit in the grass and look for bugs. When I won't have my guaranteed "friend." I'm not ready to let it go and yet I don't really have a choice. It's the progression of parenting. They slowly learn how to walk and then they slowly walk away. Or they run, depending on their dexterity.

I need a tissue! This growing up shit is hard.

So is picking goat turds out of the grooves in my flipflops.

But I'll keep doing it.

Why do all of life's turning points happen in the grocery store?

A few weeks ago, my friend Sandy visited for the weekend. I've been feeling more frazzled than usual — too much work, too many commitme...