ABOUT ME

About me: I'm 40 and added another gherkin to our pickle party of a family. My husband Chuck, our 8-year-old Junior, our 5-year-old Everett, our baby and I live in a town in Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite (aka my childhood hometown). My friends call me Nutjob, and they're right. In my husband's spare time he dresses up as a Viking and chases ghosts (and I'm the nutjob?). When I'm not busy working as a graphic designer, I lie in a ball in the corner.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A sappy but somewhat urgent post about open fields



I just got back from a pre-school field trip to a farm.

Advil? Yes, please. 

I had to rearrange my work schedule and call in the sitter for Cam so I could take Everett all by myself, but I'm glad I did. Everett goes to kindergarten next year and ever since Cam came along, he hasn't had much one-on-one time with me or Chuck. And I had my own selfish motivation (i.e., I didn't want to spend two hours carrying a baby around a farm or break my back as he tried to leap from my arms so he could crawl—in cow dung).

Repeat after me: Toddlers are fun.

The kids weren't too juiced about the animals, but they did spend a solid 20 minutes jumping from one dirt mound to another right by the dove's cage.

After the animal tour, we made our way through the woods to an open field so the kids could eat lunch.

Before I go on, I have to tell you that one of my happiest childhood memories is of an open, hilly field (hey, it was the seventies). The field was a quick drive from our house. I remember sitting in the parking lot, hand on the door, waiting for my parents to turn off the car so I could book it.

All I wanted to do was spin around like Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music.

If I drove by the field now, I'd probably be devastated to see that it's actually the size of a postage stamp, but in my memory that field is pure magic. Hazy, dreamy, bliss.

I felt a little of that awe when we stumbled out of the dark, buggy woods today into the vast, open field. It was like something out of a painting: bright yellow dandelions dotted the wide expanse of green. There were gentle hills to roll down. The sun literally beamed off the lush blades of grass. The kids, of course, broke into a run and spread their arms out like birds.

I was about to have a Julie Andrews flashback when it started.

Slow down! 

Not so fast!

Watch out for your friend!

Don't run too far!

Don't get too dizzy!

One mother turned to me in disbelief and said, "Can you believe it? She didn't even look at me before she started running, to see if it was okay."

I looked around to see if I'd missed a hidden freeway or poisonous snake pit, but there was nothing in the immediate vicinity that screamed DANGER. To me, anyway.

I can't lie: I hated us parents just then. I hated us for what we've become and for what we're doing to our children. For feeding our children's egos by lavishing them with goodie bags, toys and trophies for everyone when what we really need to do is feed their souls with freedom.

Delicious, worry-less freedom. 

Why did we have children? To constantly remind them that their lives are in danger? Why can't they run free in a fucking field? Why can't we stop reminding them of the consequences of every action?

When else in their lives will they be able to experience the true beauty of living in the moment and feeling free? I mean, call me crazy, but isn't that the very experience so many of us are trying to recapture as adults? Isn't that why 20,000,000,000 people do yoga?

I jest. Kind of.

My feelings aren't new (or that unique). I know that. I wrote a very similar post in 2009 about "No running up the slide!" at the playground and again a few weeks ago about my children's—and my own—fear of riding in the way back of the Beast.

But I can't do it anymore.

I need to break up with the voices. Or, at the very least, start traveling with armfuls of poisonous snakes so when everyone starts screaming I'll finally understand why.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I don't know when we'll be together again but...



Dear Hammock,

There you are, as you are so often, face down in the grass. You were a gift to me a few years ago for Mother's Day and truth be told, you're looking a little ratty. When Chuck first set you up in the yard, you were all pretty and shiny and I had such high hopes for us. Cocktails at three. Lazy hours with a book and a blanket. A springtime rendezvous with the peepers in our ear.

But we both know the truth: I spend very little time with you.

I'm sorry. It's not my fault. It's those little people's fault—you know, those waist-high folk who run and jump on you. Who ride you like a ship on a choppy sea and then jump from the safety of your fluttering fabric onto the grass below. There's mud. Granola bar crumbs. Dog hair. Water guns.

Gum.

Sometimes, because we live in a modest neighborhood of even more modest lawn adornment (i.e., there ain't a playscape for miles), children flock to you and so there are as many as 6 or 7 children on you at once.

But I protect you, don't I? I run outside and shoo them away.

At least we have that.

This weekend was nice, though, wasn't it? The two older boys spent a few days with their grandparents. The baby, Cam, napped for almost two hours and then we had some time together, didn't we? There was bright sunshine. A lovely, cool breeze.

I laid down and looked around, but no one ran over to rock me or flip me or jump on my head. I read a magazine. The dog lay underneath us, breathing heavy sighs of contentment. I sipped a gin and tonic. Hours—not minutes—passed.

Hours.

Here's the thing: I knew it could be good, I just didn't know it could be so good. And I realized something. I'm going to fight for us, baby! I'm going to fight for us to be together more, and no one's going to mess you up anymore with their sticky fingers or drooling tongues or muddy feet! You're mine. All mine. And we belong together.

Just like me and my bed.

Sigh. Why didn't anyone ever tell me that 40 would be a constant fight to get horizontal?

Oh shut up, Chuck.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Quick. Is there a sale on razors somewhere?

I love my bed. I have a down comforter that's fluffy and smushy. I have about 17 pillows. I have a soft, faux fur throw that I wrap around my neck like an oversized scarf. I have flannel sheets for winter and soft, silky sheets for summer.

I love me some bed.

Sometimes I stand in my doorway and look at it longingly, like a long-lost lover. "Soon we'll be together," I whisper. Other times I look at it like a vacation place I'd love to travel to. The hours until bedtime are the flight time. "Six hours. I will be under your covers in six hours!"

Barring turbulence.

Nope, I don't care about Hawaii or Rome. I want my fricken bed. 

Now that all three kids sleep through the night—knock on wood, dear gawd, knock on wood—you'd think I could hop right on into it as soon as their little heads hit the pillow but...no, not so much.

Take last week. Junior had the stomach bug and Chuck had to work the next day so I kept vigil next to Junior on the couch while he barfed. (Feather in my cap: I'm so numb to puke that I actually ate a sandwich while holding the puke bin and consoling him. "Mom," he cried, "that salami is making it worse." "I'm sorry," I lied, and kept on chewing. )

Two nights later, my mother and step-father spent the night. While he'd never complain aloud about the hard sleeper sofa, he often holds his back all the next day and sighs. Subtle. I couched it and gave them my bed.

Three nights after that, my brother Ted and his fiancee spent the night because his shower exploded all over his apartment. No, they didn't get my bed but Chuck did.

See, he was snoring again and even though I kicked him and punched him a bunch of times, he wouldn't wake up. He was pulling the "I'm snoring so you think I'm asleep" move he employed when the kids used to be babies and cry during the night, but this time he'd perfected it. He was impervious to pain. (Touche Chuck, touche.)

He was snoring so loudly that the sound machine I'd nestled into my neck and the pillow I'd placed over my exposed ear made no difference.

I assessed my options and again settled on the bottom bunk with Everett. Instead of squeezing in next to him I laid down at the other end and put my feet up near his head. It was bliss.

Until about 3 a.m. when I felt him rubbing my calf.

"Dad?" he asked innocently. Then, as he woke up more, "Ok, WHO is in my bed? Whose leg is this??"

"It's just me," I said. "Dad was snoring. It's me, your mother."

He went back to sleep.

The next morning at breakfast we joked about the musical beds. At least, everyone who'd slept more than two hours did. I just lay on the floor and let people step over me as they reached for the cereal.

"Yah," Everett giggled, "I thought Dad was sleeping with me!"

"Why? Does he get into bed with you a lot?" Ted asked.

"No! Because when I felt the leg in my bed it was so hairy!"

"I'll make eggs!" I cried, springing up from the floor.

Strangely, no one was hungry anymore.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

So many hitchhikers in my driveway. So.Many. Also, I like argyle socks



My younger brother Ted is engaged.

This happened once before, in 2009. He was engaged to a delightful young woman named Holly who spent way too many hours with me and Junior watching Junior puff. Sadly, things didn't quite work out for them (if your relationship is on the rocks, don't miss the post I dedicated to her: "The one book that can save your marriage"). When they broke up—at Christmas!—I was devastated.

Luckily for him, he is a serial dater. Soon he was inviting other women—foreign women who liked to eat donuts, for example—into my home to watch Junior puff some more.

Over the years it's become a bit of a routine. Ted meets someone, dates her for a bit then brings her round the house to meet the family. Then while we're all still in the getting to know you phase, he decides to drop her off with me so he can play golf. Or see the dermatologist.
 
He's conveniently gone for hours; sometimes he takes Chuck.

While he's out—and while I'm awkwardly entertaining some perky 20-something while simultaneously trying to care for my children—I get a text message from him that goes something like this: "Not really into her" or "Never coming back HAH!"

This has happened more than I'd like to admit. In fact, I started documenting it for shits and giggles. I actually have a photo of one of his "girlfriends" sitting in my driveway on a lawn chair, getting some sun; my laundry hanging on the clothesline behind her makes for a compelling juxtaposition between our lives.

She looks lost and I don't blame her.

(That was the one and only photo I ever took because um, if you caught your boyfriend's older sister hiding in a bush and snapping your photo when you weren't looking you'd call the cops too, right?)

Anyway, this little game of leaving dud girlfriends in my care has been going on for years.

A few weeks ago, I finally told Ted that I was on to him. My timing may have been poor. He and his new fiancee, Emma, who was in Connecticut for the weekend, were visiting on a Friday night when I jokingly mentioned his penchant for disappearing for hours and leaving strange women in my care.

"And it always means you're going to dump them!" I said. "The gig is up!"

The next night Ted had a work emergency that was going to keep him tied up for hours. Emma didn't know anyone in town. He felt badly leaving her alone at his apartment all night. He called me.

"Bring her over," I sighed. "We can watch a movie until you're done."

"She won't go to your house alone," he said.

"Why not?" I asked, insulted. What was wrong with my house?

"Because, asshole, she said she knows what happens when girlfriends get dropped off at my sister's."

I burst out laughing. "She really won't come?"

"She said she'd rather sit here alone and talk to the wall, thank you very much."

Ordinarily a comment like that would piss me off. Choose a wall over me, will you? But under the circumstances it made me like her more.

"It's about time!" I told Ted. "You finally got a girl with some moxie."

Congrats, you crazy kids!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Is it too soon to be sick of egg salad?


I'm proud to say that we colored eggs this year. Last year at Easter Cam was only one month old, and Chuck and I were too tired to do it—color eggs, I mean. Ehem. When I reminded the kids that we "forgot" to color eggs they said, "We did?"

Their hazy memory puts things into perspective. Like, if you're stressing about something or feeling guilty (like how you have a newborn and how caring for him/her is preventing you from celebrating certain holiday traditions with your other children), it's probably good to take a deep breath and remind yourself that a year later no one will remember.

Of course, this isn't a full-proof plan. Please don't go crazy not baking birthday cakes or not sharing Christmas presents with your children because Mrs. Mullet said it's ok, in one year no one will remember. 

Children aren't that dim-witted.

No, they're pretty astute in fact. It was Junior who pointed to the pink egg in the carton and said, "Mom, you're that only pink egg" before I'd realized that our household palette was greens, blues and well, more greens and blues and that yes, the pink egg was the cheese standing alone (i.e., me in a house of four boys).

"When it's egg salad tomorrow it won't matter," I told him.

"Huh?" he said.

He'd already gone on to something else, which makes me wonder if my aforementioned de-stressor mantra needs an addendum: It's probably good to take a deep breath and remind yourself that a mere second later no one will remember.

Ah hell, adjust accordingly. And go eat those eggs!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Parenting is just the postponement of the inevitable

I really meant what I wrote in my last post. I'm not going to be such a worried parent.  I'm going to give them more freedom.

I'm actually not that bad. I let Junior and Everett run with sticks. They have free reign over the swampy area behind our house, as long as they call when we yell to them. I don't freak out at the park if they run ahead and I can't see them for a few minutes. Hell, I even let Junior ride his bike, alone, down the street to the neighbor's house.

Naked.

With his hair on fire.

It's a good time to give the older boys a little freedom.

Some (me, me, me!) might say it's the perfect time.

And why is that? Because...

OMG having a toddler is so much work OMG he's kicking my ass I don't even have time to watch Everett and Junior anymore OMG I never sit down he's into EVERYTHING he has eight arms and legs and crawls at the speed of a rocket OMG OMG OMG.

Seriously, Cam is the wild child Chuck and I have feared since we started popping out boys. Junior was a handful as a toddler, yes, but despite that one time at Chili's I never contemplated taking up smoking. Everett was a little strong-willed, but he never had meltdowns in public or took off in parking lots. They kept me busy, but I do remember sitting down from time to time. I think I even chewed a meal in 2013.

Cam, on the other hand, can level a room in 20 seconds. Books come off shelves. Hair comes off the cat. Remotes get thrown into windows. Clothes come out of drawers. Blocks get toppled. We have safety locks on everything.

There is no rest.

And bathing. I strip down to a tank-top and shorts, pin up my hair and set Cam free in an inch of water—"Release the kraken!" He does 60 mile an hour laps of the tub. If a bath toy gets in his way, he thrashes it with both arms, like an angry shark blowing through chum. When I tip him back to rinse his hair, he puts his legs together and slams them into the water, sending waves everywhere.

We've started calling him "Destructor"—affectionately, of course—and he's not even walking yet. 

So you see, I don't have the time or energy to worry about Junior and Everett as much. They're in the perfect place to gain some freedom from my watchful eye. Mostly because it's exploded on my face. They also don't have to listen to me blubbering as much about them not being babies anymore because, you know, I'm so pre-occupied with one.

Hah. And there it is. It's easier to set them free a little—to watch them ride their bikes into the sunset or disappear into the woods—when you're holding sweet baby bliss under your nose and you know you have another five years or so of someone still needing you.

Ouch. Even I didn't see that one coming.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When did feeling free become a dirty little secret?

Chuck and I had to buy a bigger car this winter. Our small minivan-thing worked all right when it was just Junior and Everett, but if we wanted to go anywhere with all three kids, we'd have to move Junior to the third row "seat," which was more of a small crawlspace meant for people with accordian-style legs.

We ended up buying a used Nissan Armada which, despite its box-on-wheels appearance, has worked out quite nicely for us. We lovingly call it the Beast.

The downside, of course, is that if you get more space you tend to fill it with crap—which is just what happened. Strollers, bags, suitcases—even though no one's going anywhere—blankets, etc. You name it, it's in there.

I blame Chuck. He's a total hoarder in hiding.

It was his job, then, to empty the Beast this weekend so we could help a friend move a table. It was my job, later, to make sure it stayed empty. (And it did. Every time I saw Chuck walk toward the Beast holding something, I beat him with a stick.)

I did such a good job of beating Chuck that come Monday morning, the back of the Beast was still empty. When Everett, Cam and I picked Junior up from karate yesterday, Junior and Everett jumped over the seat into the way back and frolicked for a minute.

"It's so big back here!" they hooted.

I had a flashback. A beautiful, delicious flashback.

It was 1982. My cousin and I were in my grandfather's Subaru hatchback. In the way back. We were eight. He was speeding down the back roads of New Hampshire, windows open. Dust was flying. We were on our knees, beach sand digging into our skin. Our hair was in our mouths. He was probably going 45 but it felt like 80. We held onto the head rests of the back seat so we could get some air when he went over bumps. We were shrieking. He flew down hills. He careened around corners, knocking us into the sides of the car and into each other.

It was fucking good fun.

Fun my older children, ages eight and five, residents of the Land of Never-ending Safety, have never known.

I made a decision.

"Guys," I said, "you can stay back there."

Junior's head shot up. "What? No we can't! You'll get arrested."

"Junior, our house is literally around the corner." (It was. Around the corner.)

"We can't!" they both yelled.

"Ok," I said, "so don't. Come up front and buckle up."

"Wait!" Junior cried. "I don't know what to do."

"I'm telling you, it's okay. You're in a truck. Just don't stand up."

"Mom. Really? REALLY? This is going to be amazing!"

I drove slowly down the street. I heard them whispering, I can't believe we're doing this. I turned the corner, then another. I was about to turn down our street when I heard Junior say Aawwwwww.

I drove past the house and took the next corner a little harder. I cut the wheel harder into the next corner. Junior and Everett hooted and hollered from the back. When I got to the driveway I zigzagged back and forth—gently—then cut the wheel again.

We were home.

Junior jumped out and yelled "I feel so alive! I'm going to tell everyone!"

Fear shot through me. I remembered the woman who was arrested for letting her son play 120 feet from her home. The mother who was arrested after letting her 7-year-old walk to the park alone. 

I could see the headline: "Mother arrested for letting children sit in the way back for 1.5 minutes."

"Listen," I told the boys. "Please don't tell anyone about this. Don't tell your teachers. Don't tell your friends. Just tell Dad."

And they did. Jubilantly. Hand-gesturing-ly.

And now I'm telling you. Because we've lost something so precious. We are so worried and they are so worried and if I can steal just a little bit of it back—it was around the corner—I am going to.

Piece by piece.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Divine celery spectacle

We were sitting at dinner. Chuck was still at work and so it was just the four of us (myself, Everett, Junior and Cam), as it is so many nights. Too many nights.

Everett was taking forever to eat his egg noodles--egg noodles I had hand-picked from my homemade chicken noodle soup because he is my picky eater and yes, I coddle him. The boy can make one bite last for hours. He slowly puts the food in his mouth, tucks it in his cheek and gets distracted by something on the table and bam, dinnertime has gone from 5:45-8 p.m. and he's still working on the same damn bite.

Watching him eat is painful.

I was short. I was tired. I was all the things we become when we are one person managing a fleet of children and all we really want to do is go the fuck to bed.

"Everett!" I said. "By the time you finish that noodle you'll be 100!"

Giggles.

"Seriously. You'll be blind as a bat and your brother will have to help you get the last of the noodle into your mouth!"

More giggles.

"And I'll be up in Heaven and I'll high five God and we'll say, 'He did it! He finally did it!' "

"Don't say things like that!" Junior cried. "Don't!" He started to cry.

"Honey," I said, "if Everett is 100, I'd be like, 150. It's ok."

"No, I don't want to talk about it," he cried. "I don't want to think about you in Heaven!"

He was falling to pieces. My usually composed 8 year old was distraught over the thought of me being dead someday (of course, hello, Mom). I had to act fast.

I did some kind of half-laugh, half-chortle jump into the air to distract him and as I did, I snorted up a small piece of celery that had been in my mouth.

"Junior!" I cried. "I have celery stuck up my nose!"

Everyone burst out laughing, but the truth is that the damn thing was STUCK. And it stung. My ears watered and my nostrils burned. I blew my nose and tried to dislodge it, but the celery chunk was up in my sinus cavity. I got an awful, panicky feeling.

"I can't get it out!" I cried. They all sat and stared. "It's really stuck, guys."

Junior got me some tissues.

"Blow!" he told me.

"It burns!"

I blew. I tried to sneeze. I blew again and hopped around the kitchen.

"It's stuck!"

Finally--FINALLY--I managed a kind of sneeze-snort-cough-choke and the thing came flying out of my mouth. It landed on the floor and as we all watched, the dog casually left her food bowl, walked over and ate it off the floor.

"Dad's never going to believe this," Junior said. He hugged me and ran into the living room. Cam threw his bottle onto the floor and Everett went back to working his way through his noodle.

I stood there, flummoxed. This is what children do: they suck you into a hurricane of tears and laughter and craziness and then they spit you out and skip off.

Everett made a little squeaking noise. He looked like a little turtle to me. "You can go play if you want," I told him. "Let's set the noodle free." He hugged me too.

I picked up Cam and brought him into the living room, where we all sat.

Waiting for Chuck.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How to play bad kitty (but not at work!)

We've been sick. All of us. I believe it happened the minute I hit "publish" on my last post. Stomach bugs, colds, pink eye—you name it we've had it. Standing in line at CVS yesterday I had that shell-shocked, wide-eyed stare of someone who's lived as a hermit for too long.

People! Lights! Sound!

I hate when that happens.

Weeks ago I'd wanted to write about how a friend of mine hated my last post—"Why don't you tell your husband and kids to pick up after themselves?" she'd spat—but in hindsight, that post probably would have been mind numbingly boring (and yes, defensive).

I do remind my husband and kids to pick up after themselves but let's be honest, spouses and children are imperfect creatures. Sometimes you end up bending over and picking the damn sock/crumb/remote/pants off the floor because it's easier.

I guess if your shit doesn't stink that doesn't happen in your home.

Anyway, it's been dicey trying to keep the TV from scorching the walls because it's been on for so long. What does one do with kids when both you and they are sick and it's -15 degrees outside? I'll tell you. You can:
  • Make rice krispy treats
  • Make Valentine's Day cards for everyone and their mother
  • Take turns snorting saline solution
  • Chuck wads of socks at each other while screaming "hot potato!"
  • Camp out in the living room, tents and all
  • Stick cups of water on the front stoop and chart how long it takes for them to freeze
  • Wear a cat headband and chase each other on all fours around the living room

Myah, I'm actually serious about the cat headband thing. I grabbed it in a moment of desperation (kid meltdown #30? I'll try anything) and it quickly became an hour-long extravaganza now known as Rabid Cat. It's good fun—even better with a dose of DayQuil. Well, it was fun until I grabbed for Everett's leg—"MEOW!"—and he tripped and fell into the coffee table. Thankfully he's so desperate to leave the house he'd limp out of here if he had to.

Me too. I'm going into the office tomorrow for the first time in two weeks. For once I'm glad for my hour commute. I can mentally prepare for all the bustle. Wear real grown-up clothes. Drink coffee without someone dropping a Matchbox car into it.




I just have to remember to take off the headband.

MEOW! (Try it! It gets the ticker tocking!)

(I know, I really need to get out more.)