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ABOUT ME

About me: I'm a 40-something mother to a pickle party of a family. My husband Chuck, our tween Junior, our 6-year-old Everett, our toddler Cam, 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?). I'm a freelance graphic designer and writer.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The babysitter stole my children's birthday money

I can't take it anymore. I've been sitting on this for weeks now, and I have to say it: I caught my babysitter stealing money from me.

More specifically, from my KIDS.

As in, the children I was paying her to watch.

I hired the sitter (let's call her Kim) in February 2016 through care.com, where I get most of my sitters. At 19, she seemed a perfect fit. She was energetic. She had worked at a daycare, in the toddler room, which worked out well because I was in need of, well, toddler care. She had experience potty training. She lived only 15 minutes away. She didn't smoke. She didn't mind dogs. Blah, blah, blah.

Kim was leaving the daycare job, she said, because she "wanted to develop a strong connection with one family." 

We had a great few months. Kim was a little more stern with Junior than I liked, but I appreciated the fact that she actually disciplined the kids instead of letting them run her over. My boys are good, but like most kids, they are excitable.

I don't usually keep a lot of money in the house, but I did have an envelope with Christmas and birthday money stashed in my bedroom desk (my work from home "office" is in a corner of my bedroom), and I hadn't yet taken it to the bank. It had more than $500 in it.

One morning, as I was leaving for work, I told Kim that I was going to pay her in cash instead of personal checks. I felt bad making her go to the bank constantly, especially when she had to borrow her mother's car to run errands (she didn't have a car of her own).

When I went to my bedroom after work to get the money, the envelope was missing. Because my bedroom door was still closed when I got home, like it always is when I leave the house, I didn't think anything of it. Instead I blamed myself for not being better organized. For being scatter brained and too much in a hurry. I have piles of magazines and books next to my bed. I keep bills and mail next to my desk. I figured the envelope had fallen into one of the piles and that it would turn up in time.

Kim brushed off my concerns when I told her I'd have to write her a check because I was missing money.

"I'm sure it'll turn up," she told me. Cool as a Cheshire cat.

Through the spring, I searched frantically for the envelope. Every time I came up empty handed, I beat myself up. "I'm so disorganized!" I'd tell Chuck. "What if I recycled it? I need to slow the hell down!" He reiterated what Kim had said: "I'm sure it'll turn up."

A few weeks later, Kim arrived for a day of babysitting wearing new sneakers and clothing.

"I bet you're wondering how someone like me, who doesn't make a lot of money, can afford all this new stuff," she said. "Well, I won a scratch off lottery ticket and went straight to the mall!"

Until she'd pointed out her new clothes, I hadn't even noticed her purchases. It struck me as odd though that she had been sure to explain how she had procured them. I made a mental note and shared the odd exchange with Chuck, but nothing remarkable happened in the months that followed, so I let it fall back into the recesses of my fatigued brain.

Then one day this summer, Junior came running into my bedroom in tears.

"My birthday money is gone!" he said.

We'd gone to his grandmother's for a birthday party the following day. His birthday gifts and cards had been sitting in a gift bag on a chair in our den. I followed him downstairs, and we searched though the bag. The cards and gifts were there, but $100 in cash was missing from his grandmother's card.

I remembered that that morning Cam, our toddler, had been playing with the gift bag because it was sparkly and colorful and that Kim had taken it from him as I was leaving for work. I'm embarrassed to say that I again blamed myself for the missing money.

"We left your mother's in such a hurry!" I told Chuck. "Was the money even in the card? What if Cam tore it up?"

"I'm sure it fell under the couch or got misplaced in all the commotion," he said. "We'll all look for it."

And we did. But it was nowhere to be found.

"We have got to get more organized as a family!" I told him and the kids. "We can't just leave things lying around." I pointed to the errant socks, school work and video games on the floor. We agreed: We would all try harder.

For as much as I beat myself up for misplacing the cash, part of me was starting to seriously question Kim's trustworthiness. It seemed as if I was always missing a $10 or $20 from my wallet—but again, it was so much easier to dismiss it as my own forgetfulness. Or to assume that Chuck took it to buy coffee or a book from the kids' book fair. Once, I told Chuck I thought Kim was stealing from us because I was missing money from the beach bag. Then I found the money in question in my pocket.

"See," Chuck said, "maybe it's not her. Maybe it's us."

Like him, I didn't want to believe that the person we had entrusted our children and home to was taking from us. She hugged the kids every time before she left. She bought them birthday gifts. She knew their nuances and personalities so well. And, selfishly, we loved that she was always available, even on short notice.

"I'm going to try something," I told Chuck. "I need to know for sure."

The next time Kim babysat, I left a $20 wedged into some mail by the refrigerator. It was hidden, except for a small patch of green. I waited.

And waited.

It sat there for two weeks.

"See," Chuck said, "it's not her."

"Great," I said, "then I really do have early onset dementia."

That night Kim said she had big news. Her sister was a nanny abroad and had encouraged her to apply for a position too. Kim had been accepted and was leaving in October. She was terrified that the kids would be devastated.

"I'm going to write them all letters and let them know I'm not leaving because of them."

I told her I was happy for her and assured her that the kids would do just fine. Inside, I felt a tremendous sense of relief. In addition to the suspicions I had about her, everything about her got on my nerves lately. She had stopped washing the dishes. The highchair was always covered in old food. Her clothing was entirely inappropriate, and I'd had to speak to her about it on multiple occasions. I had been talking with Chuck about letting her go. Now I didn't have to be the bad guy.

So more weeks went by. She kept me up-to-date on her departure date and I started interviewing new sitters.

What happened next is the second part of this story. It involves more thievery. More birthday money. More pathetic attempts to explain away what is basically just shitty behavior. But it's almost 5 o'clock. Cam is awake from his nap. The kids are off the bus. And because I don't have another sitter just yet I have to, you know, parent.

Which, let me tell you, I do a little bit harder now. I hug harder. I hold them closer harder. I tell them I love them harder. Because all you need is the suggestion of someone nefarious close to your kids for you to realize how fucking precious your children really are.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pop quiz: Did Willy eat the lello geep and wash it down with a bee-ah or not?



Toddlers mispronounce words. It's just what they do, and it's what makes the toddler years so darn cute. "Lello" for "yellow." "Willy" for "Lilly." Junior said "yion" for "lion" and "schick" for "sick." Everrett said "beena" for "banana" and "geep" for "grape" until he was almost three. And so on.

You learn their idiosyncrasies and become an interpreter for them, sometimes for years. You explain to bewildered grandparents that your kid is freaking out because lello beena means he wants a yellow banana and that they probably shouldn't have given him that extra serving of geeps because he's going to get schick all night. So thanks.

Sometimes you do some awkward explaining in public because people think your toddler is spewing naughty words. Like during Junior's "bitch" phase.

And now here we are again, except this time it's "I need BEER!"

Cam, our two-and-a-half year old yells it when he's tired or overwhelmed and needs some comfort, so, as you can imagine, it happens rather often. At the library and grocery store. And at the mall and playground. During Junior's soccer practice. The day I took Cam into the office with me. At the pediatrician. 

"I need BEER! I need BEER, Mom! Please, I need BEER."

Of course, he's not asking for beer. Thank God. What kind of assholes would we be if our two year was screaming for beer. No, he's asking for his stuffed bear, which goes everywhere with him but sometimes gets left in the car or lost at the bottom of the diaper bag because it's a small bear. I won't tell you how many hours of my life I've spent looking for that damn bear. If you have kids and allow them to take their stuffed animals out of their beds I'm sure you can relate.

His older brothers think it's hysterical. "Do you need beer?" they'll ask. If Cam shakes his head yes they'll shriek, "I need whiskey!"

Hooting laughter follows. 

Cam also adds a northern twang to some of his words, so beer/bear sounds like bee-ah. It takes me back to the time I lived in Maine. Suddenly he's not a toddler; he's a hairy woodsman in plaid flannel from up north, needing his fix.

"Where's your bear?" I ask Cam 10,000,000 times a day.

"Bee-ah's over the-ah. I need BEER!"

Despite the aggravation of looking for the damn bear and the ear shattering decibel at which Cam yells "I need BEER!" when he's particularly upset, I have to admit, I'm enjoying this linguistically challenged stage more than ever. Being a 40-something mother who is on my third kid, I couldn't give a darn about who thinks what about my kids.

Ten years ago, with Junior, I would have scrambled to explain to anyone who'd listen that what my child really meant was that he needed his stuffed love, and stat. "He means his BEAR," I might have said, injecting the statement with as much sheepishness and relief as I could possibly muster. Now I just smile, pat Cam on the head and say, "I need a beer too, honey."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Laundry. A.k.a. "Let's have another baby!"

I finally tackled that big ass stack of laundry. It's the chore I dread AND loathe AND detest the most, even with the kids pitching in. At the bottom of the basket was this: a big ass—I guess that's the theme for today—pile of unmatched socks.


I've been meaning to do something about the socks for awhile but it's crazy, I sometimes need to eat and sleep so the task keeps falling off my radar. And really, who the hell even wants to deal with that? Unless you're OCD and enjoy color sorting and carefully making lost socks meet up again, in which case please contact me right away.

I've tried to make sock sorting fun. I've thrown three sock sorting parties for me, Chuck and the kids so we could sit down and tackle the pile together. I'm serious. I called it just that. It went all right, but the movie on in the background was a big distraction, and then Cam came along at the end and started throwing socks all over the living room, which sent his brothers into freak-out mode and I was left, again, picking up wads and wads of socks.

The cheese does, indeed, stand alone.

After Chuck was invited to the second sock sorting party he came up with a good idea.

"Why doesn't the whole family just wear the same exact pairs of socks? We'll never have mismatched socks again!"

He ran off to BJs—that's his M.O., he has a brainstorm right before a chore, then peels out of the driveway to accomplish said brainstorm—and came back with black ankle socks for the whole family.

But, truth be told, black ankle socks on kids kind of skeeves me so I went against Chuck's same sock mandate and bought the kids some white ankle socks. And myself some gray anklettes. Then my mother admitted that she also wears black anklettes of a different brand than Chuck and that she's been losing socks at my house too (she takes them off after a day of babysitting because they are covered in cat and dog hair and, ok, huge dust balls. I also dread AND loathe AND detest vacuuming).

So there we were again. The mandate failed. The socks were still unmatched. And that third sock sorting party was sorely unattended.

Now here I am. In tears. Not because of socks but because of this:


It was buried under the socks at the bottom of the laundry basket. It's too small for Everett and Cam is the last brother, which means this shirt can officially be retired. There are no more little brothers. This is how we ended up with a third child. The stabs to the heart when you realize precious pieces of their childhood are over for good? They have a real way of getting those ovaries ticking again.

Alas, not for me. I'm old now. I turn 111 this fall.

I'm joking. That's my age in sock years. Or is that how many pairs I have left to sort? Or tears to shed? Or sock parties to plan? Or sock puppets to make?

Or I could try some of these ideas:

http://www.businessinsider.com/62-things-you-can-do-with-your-old-mismatched-socks-2015-6

Or I could just throw all of the socks back into the basket, put it off for another six months and get back to more important matters: watching my kids grow up so effing fast.

Yah, I think I'll do that.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Maybe I'll save this state! One square of toilet paper at a time

http://www.wfsb.com/story/36264722/mom-wont-soon-forget-night-lost-in-naugatuck-woods?autostart=true


A Connecticut mother, Natalie Van Komen, recently got lost in the woods. Governor Malloy immediately enacted a "Lost Mother in the Woods" tax, which will cost tax payers an extra $100,000,000 a year. More Connecticut people will decide to move, and the state will become even crappier and more destitute than before.

Just kidding.

In all seriousness, did you hear? The mother went for a walk close to dark with her two children and dog, lost her way, lost use of her cell phone and ended up spending the night in the woods—through rain and a thunder storm—"terrified."

I can only imagine. I would have been an absolute wreck. 

The story itself isn't as horrific as what's going on in Texas and other parts of the country right now, but what is horrific are the comments on Facebook about the story. People are afraid for our future "because millennials have no common sense." 

Poor millennials. I work with some of them; if you sift past their sensitive side they're actually pretty enterprising.

Then there are the people who can't believe the mother didn't know about the impending storms. I mean, none of us has ever gotten wet due to a pop-up shower or—horrors—not kept track of the weather predictions for every second of every day. Never, ever.

There are others who can't believe the mother didn't have a fully charged cell phone with her or, gasp, water for the children and dog. I guess I can't argue with this. I know that every time I leave the house for an impromptu walk in the woods with the kids I bring a fully charged cell phone, a spare cell phone, a portable charger, a walkie talkie, several flares, three 10-gallon jugs of water I saddle on the dog and kids—they love it—and then a Morse code machine just in case all other methods of communication fail. I also dress the entire family in fluorescent yellow. Did I mention I wear a tarp that inflates into a 3-story structure, complete with bay windows (can't hide from the bad guys if you can't see 'em!), hand sanitizer stations and of course, sticks for roasting S'mores (those "natural" sticks from the woods are bacteria-laden!).

Sweet Lord. I mean, the perfection of some. It must be lovely to live in that garden and to snip a daily bloom upon which you can gaze, content in that smug reality you inhabit. 

Makes me downright sick, I tell you. 

Should she have wrapped the family in bubble wrap and simply stood outside her home at 4 o'clock instead of going into the woods at dusk? Sure. But even that is full of cautionary what-ifs. I mean, what if she lives on a busy road and what if she waited on the sidewalk in the daylight without remembering sunscreen and sunglasses? She could have been blinded momentarily by the sun and lost sight of the dog, who could have run into traffic and been flattened like a pancake. And the children! What if she didn't read the warning label on the bubble wrap? It magnifies the sun! They would have been sunburned. Roasted! 

And people would rant about that too. 

You can't win.

It's why I've been blogging less. Seriously. I just can't take it anymore: the snark, the rudeness, the lack of compassion. I haven't been hit with it personally, thankfully, but lately it's felt better to tune out rather than tune in. 

I commend Van Komen for sharing her story. I once shared a similar story on this blog, though at the time I didn't let on just how scared I was. I went into a large corn maze at a farm I didn't know in a Connecticut town I didn't know and I got lost inside the maze. 

The corn was so high the only thing I could use for reference was the sun. I was seven months pregnant and I had my toddler with me. We were the only ones at the farm, besides the man running the maze, who had some screws loose and probably wouldn't have even noticed if we'd never come out. I had left my cell phone in the car. Chuck didn't even know where I was.

It was frightening. 

The thing that saved me? My pregnant bladder. 

So you see, shit happens! Or, in this case, pee. To all you perfect people living in your perfect gardens, that won't actually water your flowers, per se, but I'd be more than happy to stop by and lift my leg for you.

I mean, come on! It would be so worth the "Woman Pees in Asshat People's Metaphoric Gardens" tax Malloy would create. And it might just save the state...



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Yep, that third kid is so amazingly easy going

"Cam, please pick up your cars now."

"No!"

"I'd like you to pick up your cars."

"No."

"Would you like a time-out?"

"No time-out."

"Then help pick up your cars."

"Mom, w'as dat?"

"That's a car. A car to pick up."

"No pick up cahs."

"One more chance. It's time to pick up cars."

Looks at me with disdain, then slowly picks up one car and throws it in the basket.

"Let's not throw cars. Let's place them gently."

"No gently."

"Yes, gently."

"Mom, w'as dat?"

"That's the dog. Keep picking up those cars, Cam."

"No tell. No cahs."

"Ok, time out."

Slowly picks up one car and places it in the basket.

"Great job! Keep going."

"No say gweat jaaab."

Slowly picks up another car and places it in the basket.

"Mom, w'as dat?"

"That's the garbage truck."

One more car. Then another. One by one. 

"What a good listener you are."

"No good wist'ner."

"You're not a good listener?"

"NO GOOD WIST'NER!"

"You're almost done. Then we can go outside."

"No done. No 'side."

"No really, you're almost all done."

"No all done."

Puts last car in basket.

"Hooray! You did it. Let's go outside."

"No hooray." Throws self on floor.

Under breath: "Fine, that was craptastic and we're never going outside again. Is that better?"

My father always said that patience is learning to wait without complaining. My entire childhood—that's all I heard. I'd like to amend that so it's more appropriate for today. Patience is NOT learning to wait without complaining. It's learning to parent a toddler without swearing, drinking, screaming, running away or chewing on glass.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

And then there are the double digits...



Junior turned 10 this week. He's my first kid to hit the double digits. His feet are larger than mine. I constantly mix up his underwear and Chuck's. I find myself looking straight across when I talk to him instead of down. He will not leave the house without deodorant.

It's all very disconcerting.

Where did the baby go? The toddler? The pre-schooler? The kindergartner? I mean, what the hell?

Junior is the reason I have this blog. Back in 2008—!!!—motherhood felt lonely, like a party I wasn't invited to, and I needed an outlet. I'm so grateful I have it. It's so easy to forget all those little moments (the syrup post is still my all-time favorite). Sigh. In some ways it feels as if a lifetime has passed. In others, mere days.

Junior's name has been massacred by two younger brothers now. He's been Jager and Say-ga and Jeta and Saya. He's used to having younger brothers jump out at him and karate chop him—frisky puppies playing with the big dog. Just the other day he was lying on the floor reading, minding his own business, when Everett and Cam both pounced on him, then rolled off.

Junior sighed and calmly turned the page.

They're damn lucky he's the oldest. He's got more patience than I ever did. When he talks to his brothers—"We don't cut lamp cords with scissors, Cam. And how did you get scissors? Everett, did you not put your scissors away again?"—I can imagine the kind of father he'll be someday.

If he's not too traumatized by having siblings to procreate.

When Junior is sick and he groans like an old man from the couch, then hobbles to the bathroom so he can clutch his stomach in front of the mirror and say, "I need a bland diet today," I pray that his spouse will be a patient person with a sense of humor.




There are subtle changes that accompany the double digits. Junior still has his stuffed dog, but it doesn't follow him everywhere anymore. It doesn't even leave the house for sleepovers. In fact, it only comes downstairs if he's sick on the couch.

And there's an awkwardness that wasn't there before. Sure, he and Everett will snatch my bras from the clothes basket and put them on their heads, then run around pretending to be coneheads, but Junior pauses now before he hugs me, aligning himself so our chests don't touch. He's convinced he has two armpit hairs. He wants to know about puberty. (Chuck, that's all you.)

For as much as I might lament the passing of time, I am really happy about all of this. Junior is a stand-up guy. He's compassionate and empathetic. He's bright and charismatic. He makes me believe in a brighter future. Sometimes I look at Chuck and think, holy hell, we didn't fuck this up! Other times I look at Junior and think, holy hell, you're going to tower over me someday! Then Junior catches me watching him and asks, "What, what, what, WHAT, WHAT?" a million times because the kid cannot let anything go.

Anything (and again I pray that his spouse will be a patient person with a sense of humor).

Happy birthday, Junior. I love you to Jupiter and back. The moon just isn't far enough.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A momentary pause from the Holiday Road series to tell you that I've met my soulmate

My brother Ted brought Chuck a bottle of whiskey for the fourth of July, which they quickly cracked open (here, guys, let me just get that pesky toddler out of your way). While they were oohing and aaahing over its smoothness, my eyes rested on the box in which it came.

The world suddenly fell away.

"What's up with her?" my brother asked.

"Dunno," grunted Chuck. "Mmmm. More drink."

What was up with me is that a woman was staring back at me—okay, she was staring off into the distance—and she perfectly captured the way I feel as a mother.  



This is me. Every day. Trying to look stalwart and steady while little people stand inside my brain and ravage it. And, yes, a little miffed, hence the slight upcurl at the side of the mouth. As if to say, "Really guys? Jumping off the sofa again? And did you really have to pour blue food coloring into the dishsoap? And why on Earth are there wet pieces of toilet paper stuffed into the light socket?"





This woman is my hero. My kindred spirit. My soulmate. I love her. Just knowing she's on that box, calmly selling whiskey while people trample her brain, makes me feel like maybe things are going to be okay.

(A few shots help too—that's where the hedonism part comes into play, because it's certainly not derived from raising children. Pleasure, yes. Hedonism, no.)

The company, Compass Box, explains that "The inspiration behind our whisky HEDONISM is just that – pleasure, enjoyment, a celebration of that ideal marriage" between distilled spirit and blah blah...but really, I wonder if there isn't more to it. I wonder if there isn't a little whiskey maker out there somewhere who was whiskey making while he watched his wife tend to their children and who said to his logo maker, I'll call the whiskey Hedonism because Brain Annihilation just isn't sexy enough but can you honor my wife somehow on the label?

And there she is.

My gawd I love her.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Holiday Road, part I

OK, here goes.

A few weeks ago Chuck and I threw the three boys into the car and drove down to Florida. We'd been thinking about going but couldn't commit to a set date because Chuck had a kidney stone he needed to pass. On Thursday morning I sent my mother a text (she and my step-father wanted to follow us down): "Chuck gave birth to a 4 mm stone! Trip's on!"

Bam! 21 hours? No problem.

The first day we drove 10 hours, stopping at 1 a.m. to check into a fleabag motel off the side of the highway. We moved rooms twice: once because the smoke alarm wouldn't stop beeping and again because an alarm clock wouldn't stop alarming. Finally, at 2 a.m., everyone was settled.

Due to lack of sleep and sore ass from the road, everyone was in a shit mood the next day but we made it to Savannah. Ah...Savannah. Lovely. Gorgeous. Complete with a walkable square full of stores, ice cream shops, horse-drawn carriage rides and live music. I slugged three drinks and chased Cam around the square while the older boys danced and laughed.



It was perfection (no really, it was perfect)--until the lack of sleep hit Cam like a thunderbolt.

I put him in the stroller and offered him ice cream but he knocked it out of my hand and onto a passerby's foot (an understanding passerby, thankfully). Then Cam kicked and wailed. People stared. He thrashed and yelled. People gawked. It's been awhile since one of the kids has had a full-on public meltdown. It sucks. I admit it: I panicked. I raced off down the street with him.

Humidity + stress + vodka  + Chuck yelling "That's the wrong street! You're going the wrong way!" as I sprinted off into the sunset = Junior waking up, sniffing the air and asking, incredulously, "Mom is that you that stinks?"

The next day we arrived at our hotel in Orlando--freshly showered. We had booked at the last minute at Floridays Resort, choosing it based on its pool, which appeared to cater to older kids and toddlers (read: I was not going to chase Cam around a deep-end-only pool for a week) and because it wouldn't break the bank.



I can't recommend it enough, despite the shitty, bouncy bed Chuck and I ended up on. (Side note: When you share a family suite with your kids and parents on vacation, the only reason your bed bounces is because of shoddy springs. Sorry Chuck!)

We hadn't booked tickets at any of the theme parks because we had family in the area, and that's mainly why we went to Florida, but we did want to attempt a park. Even though it was 95 degrees with 100% humidity. Even though we didn't have the stupid effing Fast Pass everyone said we MUST have. Even though we had a toddler...we spent the $20,000 and bought six tickets to Universal (hooray, Cam was free), mainly because Junior and Everett wanted to see the Harry Potter exhibit.



So there we were. Two 80-year-old grandparents. Two forty-something parents. A 10 year old. A six year old. A two year old.

Dun, dun, dun. More tomorrow.