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.

Monday, July 11, 2016

What we've been up to, according to the table in the hallway




We don't have central air. We have window units, and because they're small and only cool one room at a time, I hang a sheet at the top of the stairs so they're not working overtime to cool both the top and bottom floors. I hang the sheet (this year it's a dinosaur twin sheet) by thumbtacks on either side of the stairwell.

Every once in a while, the sheet catches on someone's leg and comes down off the wall. If it's Chuck's leg, I hear him muttering that I'm trying to kill us all with my contraption. If it's Junior's leg, he screams "stupid sheet!" then clomps down the stairs in a huff.

Funny thing is, the sheet's been going up and down for the last four years and no one has attempted to find a better solution. Not even my Mr. Fix It husband. They accept my make-shift hazard and it hits me again that I really am in charge of this brood—in charge enough that they jetty around my decisions, even when they're half-assed. 

Of course, when the sheet comes down, the thumbtack flies off, and I frantically search for it. But just in case, I keep a stash of extra thumbtacks in the square mouth of the vacuum attachment, which has been sitting on the hall table for about six months. The attachment came off the vacuum one day, and I keep meaning to glue it back on but for right now, it makes an awfully handy spare thumbtack holder.

The vacuum attachment is next to Elmo, who is in his submarine. I grabbed the toy from Cam right after I gave him a bath and right before he tried to chuck it at Everett's head. Elmo's been in the tub with the boys for eight years. Junior used to get upset that Elmo was glued in—"He'll never walk, Mom?"—but Elmo keeps smiling and spinning in circles in his little boat.

Metaphor who?

Chuck's favorite book, Dune, is on the hall table too. He tried to get me to read it, but I don't foray often into space. He tried to get Junior to read it too, but Junior's wrapped up in any-and-all things Percy Jackson right now. So there it sits, until someone (Everett, maybe?) decides to give it a chance.

The dog's extra collar is on the table too. Everett grabbed it from my bureau, and I caught him trying to put it on his baby brother and attach it to the dog's leash, so he could walk Cam. Everett was so surprised I didn't like the idea I actually thought of letting him do it. I put the collar on the table right before I pushed the sheet aside and brought both boys downstairs, so we could walk the dog.

Sometimes I go into other people's houses and regret that my home isn't more put together. I feel like a little bit of a failure because their counters are sparkling and clean and because truly, every flat surface in my home is full of stuff—and not pretty stuff like vases or frames but weird stuff like Lego hands and eyeless stuffed owls and yes, vacuum attachments full of thumbtacks.

But this post, which began in my mind as a humorous attempt as self-admonishment (don't they all?), has made me feel a million times better. Right now we're in the thick of living and yah, shit's going to accumulate...mainly because kids have so much shit.

I forgot about the white harness on the table. I think it belongs to Chuck's sleeping bag. Or maybe he stopped in the hall one day, right before he almost fell down the stairs, and thought he'd harness the sheet to a pole instead of enduring the thumbtacks any longer, and he changed his mind and put it down. I really don't know.

I'm pretty sure about this: One day it'll be gone, just like that. Everett will try to harness Cam to the wall or Elmo to the tub and the harness will end up somewhere else, maybe lost among the missing thumbtacks. I'll finally find the glue and reunite the attachment with the vacuum. We'll get central air or someone (hint, hint) will put up a proper curtain rod.

Yes, one day all the stuff will be gone—the pieces of what we've been doing and how we've been falling around each other and tormenting each other and stumbling into each other—and the tabletops will finally be spotless.

And I'll probably hate the hell out of it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

(Still) married with children

Chuck and I celebrated our tenth anniversary last weekend. Ten freaken years. That's a lot of dirty socks under the bed. I mean, love notes on the fridge.

Ahem.

My mother offered to babysit so we could go away for the weekend. Isn't she amazing? Seventy-two and still as sprite as ever. Remind me to send her something.

After belaboring options (could we really fly to Bermuda and leave my mother with three kids? Should we just rent an RV, park behind a gas station and catch up on sleep?), we settled on Salem, Mass., a walkable, low-key, and bewitching—har, har—city.

If you've never been, I can't recommend it enough. We ate a seafood dinner on the water, shopped, drank way too many Moscow Mules, poked around a flea market, stayed in the cozy guest house of the Hawthorne Hotel (the shower was in the closet!)...



... slept late, ate dinner at 11 p.m. (to soak up all those Moscow Mules) and of course, because Chuck is a somewhat retired ghostbuster we went on a Haunted Footsteps Ghost Tour.  It was seriously spooky. And look at what I caught on camera!


Myah, nothing but a cemetery—but it was still spooky. In fact, after Chuck and I sneaked behind that abandoned building in the background to swap spit (thank you, Moscow Mules) and heard twigs cracking underfoot right next to us, we raced back to catch the tour. (Fine, only I raced.) When I told the tour leader about our possible paranormal experience, he congratulated us on possibly having an encounter.

With a skunk.

Love that ghostly wit.

Chuck and I arrived back home in Connecticut refreshed, albeit slightly hungover, and lighter (but not translucent or surrounded by orbs, those are important distinctions). Which brings me to the point of this post. It actually isn't to hawk all things Salem (I'd go back in a heartbeat), but to acknowledge something that, in my opinion, is rarely said: Children can be a marriage killer if you let them.

That might sound harsh, but it needs to be said. If you forget who you are as a person, and you forget who your spouse is as a person, and you forget who you were as a couple—you know, those two crazy kids who once upon a time got horizontal—you can easily slip into the precarious dimension of zombie co-parenting. You know the dimension. The one where you let the day-to-day grind of child responsibility hack away at your souls? Where you take out your grindly frustrations on your partner?

Yes, you can go there—it's kind of impossible not to—but you can't stay there if you want your marriage to make it.

Until last weekend, I'd forgotten how much fun Chuck and I had had before we spawned. We must have logged 10,000 miles walking around cities, arm-in-arm, half in the bag. Those are some of my most favorite memories. And duh, those are the memories that made me say "I do" in the first place.

So yes, happy anniversary Chuck. Our getaway beats the shit out of our third anniversary and its  granny vaginas; our fourth anniversary, when we did something with bananas; our fifth anniversary, when I whittled you gingerbread cookies; and all the other anniversaries I apparently forgot to blog about.

I love you. And yes, if you need to start ghostbusting again you have my blessing.*

* I don't really mean that but in the spirit (HAH!) of this post I thought I should make it look like I'm a supportive spouse.

Monday, June 13, 2016

And on Sunday night in the driveway...


Everyone had meltdowns last night. The cat was even off.

It had been a busy weekend, and by 7 o'clock everyone—including me and Chuck—were cooked. I felt badly handing the kids over to the sitter, but it was almost bedtime and Chuck and I seriously needed some adult time.

Everett took our departure the worst. He held onto my leg and begged me not to go. The sitter scooped him up (this move should be mandatory in sitters) and suggested they play Candy Land. Thankfully he obliged.

We made it to the car and were sitting in the driveway, engine running, when Junior raced outside. I sighed, exasperated. Chuck shook his head. What now?

Junior motioned for me to roll down the window.

"What is it?" I groaned.

"I have to tell you something," Junior whispered.

"Hurry up," Chuck said tersely, "we have a dinner reservation."

"I know how Everett feels," Junior said into my ear.

"And...?"

"Right now," Junior said. "I know he feels."

"About what, honey? We're running late. Please just spit it out."

"Yah, Junior. We need to hustle."

Junior sighed, annoyed with us for rushing what he apparently felt was a monumental declaration. "Everett is crying because when you're gone, it's like our comfort is gone! And it just hurts a little. Even though we know you're coming back. Our comfort is gone. That's why we cry."

He kissed my cheek and ran back into the house.

Chuck and I sat there.

"It's, like, harder when they can talk," Chuck finally said.

"Yes," I said, swallowing the lump in my throat. "It absolutely is."

We left for dinner.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Respect isn't just a lesson for our sons

I'm sorry I've been gone for so long, but I've been busy with work, kids, a stomach bug, Chuck's kidney stones, Cheerios in my hair—you know, the usual.

I typically don't comment on mainstream news because, quite honestly, I'd rather keep things on the lighter side on this blog (and when the hell is mainstream news light?), but as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, I noticed a trend: Several of my friends had posted Scary Mommy's blog post, "Rape Culture Starts As Early As Middle School" followed by the battle cry, "TEACH YOUR SONS TO RESPECT WOMEN."

Obviously, their posts were in response to the Stanford rapist and his fucktard father and the two men's complete disregard for the victim and the trauma she's endured.

But let me tell you, when you write TEACH YOUR SONS TO RESPECT WOMEN, you're also speaking to me. I have three sons. I'm someone who is allegedly responsible for raising a boy who may or may not rape. And before you put all the impetus on me, or Chuck, or any of our sons' kin, there are some things I'd like you to know.

Before I get started, let me say this in the clearest way I can: I am not defending Brock Allen Turner or his unconscionable behavior, nor am I saying that women ask for it. If, during this post, you start to forget that please scroll back up and reread this.

Ok, ready?

Every day, I struggle with how to teach my son to respect a sex that doesn't always respect itself—and if you don't believe me, just look around. Half-naked women are everywhere: billboards, magazine ads, television ads. Look at the strong, positive role models for young women. Right, there are none. Kim Kardashian? Miley Cyrus? Mainstream society is little more than an ongoing smut-fest.

As such, Chuck and I have consciously tried to shield our sons from it. We've only allowed the kids to watch PBS Kids. We don't subscribe to racy magazines. The kids only watch G and PG movies. Hell, we only listen to NPR. Junior's learned more pop-culture songs at school than he has at home.

Sometimes though, we stick our toe in the water, just to see how bad it is—just so our kids have some clue about mainstream society. We don't want them to feel totally isolated (or ridiculed).

So...we tried to let the kids watch the Superbowl last year, but we had to turn it off during halftime because Beyonce ripped half of her clothes off. Bruno Mars was able to keep his clothes on. New Year's Eve shows weren't much better. Kathy Griffin disrobed. Anderson Cooper did not.

"Why do women always dance in their bathing suits?" is a common question my eight year old, Junior, asks. "Why do they always dance like that?" (He means hump the air/gyrate/writhe on the floor.)

What's the lesson here when we leave the safety of PBS? Women take their clothes off. Men do not—unless they're playing sports.

My mother recently bought me an Elle magazine (because of an interesting article), and Junior flipped through it as it was sitting on the kitchen table.

"Why don't women ever have any clothes on?" he wanted to know when he saw all the ads. He was genuinely perplexed. "You wear clothes, Mom. Do women who have children just keep their clothes on?"

"Yah, Mom, why?" my five year old asked.

"I know! They want to be sexy!" Junior cried.

"Any why do they want to be sexy?" I asked innocently.

"So boys like them!" Junior answered without hesitation.

This is what my sons glean from their 30 minutes with mainstream society. This is what my sons think women crave. Not careers, not Olympic medals, not literary awards, not scientific accolades, but sex appeal.

I have my work cut out for me. I won't have my children forever. At some point they'll eschew what Chuck and I say and form their own opinions. Hell, they've already started. But I will continue to be that voice in their ear that tells them that women are not just eye candy, despite what society leads them to believe. When they're old enough I'll make sure they understand that women aren't just there for men's pleasure. That as men they can't just take what they want.

I will say it every day if I have to—not because I think they'll forget, but because shitbag parents like Turner's father, the mainstream media and this valueless society we live in will tell them otherwise.

You tell me, TEACH YOUR SONS TO RESPECT WOMEN. I tell you, I AM TRYING. But you, you have to meet me halfway. You have to TEACH YOUR DAUGHTERS TO RESPECT THEMSELVES. Teach them that Virginia Woolf didn't advocate for a room of her own so she could take naked selfies and post them to Instagram. She believed women had more to offer than that. I know that, my sons will know that.

Will you?

Monday, May 23, 2016

In case no one's told you today, on Mother's Day, or on any other day, thank you

I'm still thinking about Mother's Day. Still trying to put into words how I feel about the holiday and all the over-hyped fanfare. I realize that posting about something that happened 15 days ago is, in Internet time, like posting about something that happened in 10 BC, but this is my blog and I make the rules so—evil cackle—here goes.

The day didn't get off to a very good day. Chuck was so tired from camping for two nights with his friends (ahem) in the rain (must have sucked, honey) that he awoke looking like a slitty-eyed serpent. Our morning hello went like this:

Me: You sleep in. You're exhausted.

Chuck: No, you sleep in [yawn]. It's [yawn] Mother's Day.

Me: Well, if you insist.

Chuck: I [yawn] do. It's [yawn] Mother's Day. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Me: Are you actually going to go back to sleep? Didn't you sleep in on your camping trip?

We both got out of bed.

The kids woke up off. Everything turned into a bickering match.

Junior: Everett hit me with his spoon. Mom, he hit me!

Everett: No I didn't! You're lying!

Junior: You did so! I have a mark on my leg.

Everett: No I didn't! You hit me!

Chuck: Guys [yawn] c'mon! It's [yawn] Mother's Day.

Junior: Everett hit me! No one ever believes me.

Everett: No I didn't! You're lying!

Junior: You did so! I have a mark on my leg.

Everett: No I didn't! You hit me!

 Chuck: Guys [yawn] c'mon! It's [yawn] Mother's Day. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Junior: Did Dad just pass out on the floor?

Somewhere in there Cam cried about nothing and everything. The weatherman admitted that the rain would continue until next month. The dog chased a squirrel into the swamp. Junior had a cowlick I couldn't brush out. There was clutter everywhere. I found 50 new gray hairs and 150 new wrinkles. We were out of milk.

You get the idea.

Around two, I decided to abort the Mother's Day mission and go to one of my favorite furniture consignment shops—because nothing says Mother's Day like buying a used bureau—but as soon as I got in the car I burst into tears. Then I shouted "Fuck Mother's Day!" a few hundred times and went back inside.

"We're all going out!" I barked. (Can you picture me? Mascara running, crazy-eyed, runny nose, wild hair?) "Get your shoes!"

They lovingly obliged. After driving around aimlessly for 45 minutes (go ahead, try to find something desirable to do in Connecticut on a rainy holiday), we decided to get ice cream at a stupid little ice cream shop. This is the only picture I took all day:


And you can't even see his face.

We drove home.

It was 5:15 p.m. I told everyone I was going to bed and I did. I got into bed with my phone and Googled "Shitty Mother's Day." There were 774,000 results. I instantly felt better. In fact, after sifting through countless message boards, blog posts and articles and realizing I wasn't alone, I felt the best I had all day. 

You, my fellow mothers, saved Mother's Day. You made it all okay. I'm tearing up just thinking about how much I love you all. It's asinine to think that Mother's Day will be a magical day when children behave perfectly, spouses won't be tired, pets won't get muddy and toddlers won't have meltdowns. It's just absurd.

So now I know for next year. I'm getting the hell out of dodge. Chuck can find a new weekend to camp. And you, I know you are just a few search terms away.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I bet you can't guess what kind of Mother's Day I had from the tone of this post



My friend Andy fixed me up with one of her friends on Facebook.

"She has three boys, like you," Andy said. "And she's funny! You're perfect for each other. I told her about you too."

The next day, I friended the woman. And my friend was right: her friend Sarah was funny. Silly kid pictures, snarky comments, a gorgeous home. I liked seeing her updates—until a few weeks ago when she posted a day-in-the-life-of post, by the minutes. It went something like this:

8:33: Tried to get work done
8:43: Picked kid #2's gum off keyboard. Can't use space bar
8:53: Hit in head by toast thrown by kid #3
9:13: Cat threw up
9:22: Cable's out. Kid #3 drew on wall
9:45: Sitter threw up
9:52: Found kid #1 about to jump off bookcase
10:01: Ate old granola bar off floor
10:11-10:43: Tantrum hell with kids #1 and #3
10:52: Out of milk
11:01: Have I peed today?
11:10: Stepped on LEGO
11:22: Kid #2 won't nap!

And so on.

She stopped at noon.

The next day, she picked up at 12:15, and it was more of the same. She ended at 5 p.m.. The day after that, she detailed 5:15 p.m. to bed time.

People loved it. They ROFL and LMAO at it. They wanted more. 

Me? I felt depressed by the insanity of it all. I could relate to everything; seeing it recounted item by item depressed the hell out of me. 

The plain truth is that sometimes parenthood sounds horrible and is horrible. I'm still traumatized by a friend's description of the time all five—FIVE—of her kids had the stomach bug at the same time. Seriously, it makes me twitch just thinking about it. And I'll never forget the time I saw a child run screaming from his own birthday party at a park because he wanted to go to the water park across the lawn right then. The parents had the look of deer about to be creamed by a double-wide; again, I twitch just thinking about it. 

Sure, we can try to laugh our way through it, but some days the sheer depth of what children need from us is—how do I say this?—well, it can make you feel like a mouse trying to suck Niagara Falls through a straw. The sheer bipolar nature of children is maddening. And hello, sometimes eating an old granola bar off the floor (or worse, someone's shirt) isn't funny because you realize Holy shit, I can't even meet my own basic needs—like going to the bathroom or eating something that's new.

My new Facebook friend Sarah ended her day three post at 8:45 p.m. with: Climbed into bed with kid #2, snuggled him and realized kisses make everything worth it."

I wanted to write "bullshit" or "yah, right." I wanted to tell her that her sappy and cliché ending reminded me of Cinderella or Snow White. Are kisses from your children really enough for a happily ever after? I mean, really?

Of course, since we had just started "dating" I didn't write anything. I liked her post, because yes, sometimes that stupid "like" button is validation that we're doing okay. That people find us funny. That we're not alone. That our mundane days have an over-arching meaning that we've yet to see with our own eyes. That our cats aren't the only ones vomiting. That our kids aren't wretched cretins. That granola bars have an exceptional shelf life.

Yes! The "like" button means all that.

Then, as I do most nights, I twitched myself to sleep.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pre-gaming Mother's Day

Sleep regression. I had forgotten all about it.

My father calls it a state of temporary imbalance.

I call it living torture.

Cam, at 14 months, has suddenly decided he hates to go to sleep. He throws his stuffed dog on the ground and screams for it. When I go in to give it back to him, he throws it down again. I've let him cry. I've soothed him. I've taken the dog away. I've hidden it. I've rocked him (Cam, not the dog). I've sung. I've read. I've fed him. I've put lights on. I've turned lights off. I've watched minutes turn into hours.

HOURS.

I've rubbed his stomach. I've rubbed his back. I've rubbed my aching temples. And when he finally falls asleep, I slump down on my bed and punch my pillow.

I know the stage will pass, but I marvel at how much of this I blacked out. This is when things get dicey. This, when your child is age 1 to 3, is when you find out what you're made of.

It's also when the guy at the liquor store starts giving you the You again? look.

So when Chuck asks me for the umpteenth time what I want to do for Mother's Day this is what I tell him: I want to drive to the woods—alone—lay out a sleeping bag in the back of the Beast, lie in a ball and sleep and cry. He and the kids can stop by for coffee but the sleeping bag is mine.

A few years ago, when the idea of Mother's Day was still new to me, I might have felt horrible guilt for admitting that I just want to be alone for Mother's Day. But now I know the truth: Everyone experiences a state of temporary imbalance. Even mothers. And even on Mother's Day.

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.