Wednesday, November 15, 2017

In defense of adoration—even in the deli line

The toddler was all over his mother. Cam and I were in line at the deli at Mulletville Lite's town grocery store, watching the lovefest.

"I love you SO much, Mommy!" the boy was saying. The woman was visibly pregnant, holding him on top of her bump. "I just LOVE you!" He took her long hair and pulled it under her ears and chin. Every time he leaned in to nuzzle her he said, "I just love you SO, SO much!"

Isn't that sweet, I thought.

"I LOVE YOU, Mommy!"

"I LOVE YOU, Mommy!"


Wow, I thought, that kid has it bad. Stalker bad, but still sweet. Cam is affectionate–all three boys have been–but he's not one to fawn. His toddler love is quieter, softer. This kid was IN LOVE.

After more swooning, the mother put him down to give the clerk her deli order. Soon enough they were on their way, hand in hand. As they walked down a far aisle, out of earshot, a woman in her early sixties (late fifties? Hell, I don't know) leaned into the woman next to her (older again, graying hair) and said, "I don't miss that stage one bit."

The other woman replied, with a haughty scoff, "Me EITHER!"

Wow. Didn't see that coming.

I wondered about the exchange the whole drive home. I had expected the women to say the opposite, that the toddler's professions of love were precious/endearing/blah blah blah but nope. They were all set. I remembered a woman I'd run into weeks before at the playground. She looked absolutely traumatized by the sight of my three kids.

"I have one," she said, "and I can't handle it. He touches me constantly. He has no boundaries."

She confided that she was in therapy because of it. Because of the unwelcome physicality of motherhood.

I guess I'd never thought about it, but it's true: Children touch you constantly, and if you're not into it, you're just not into it.

There have been times when I haven't wanted someone on my lap or hip or leg. Absolutely. Space is limited when you have kids. But it feels good (better at least) when the clinging is accompanied by confessions of adoration, right? It's the sweet spot of parenting. It helps temper all of the whining and meltdowns and tears and vomit and bodily fluids and colds and potty training accidents and vomit...

Oh wait. I said that already.

But right? Isn't the closeness why we have children in the first place? Doesn't it stem from love and a desire to share love?

Or am I completely naive?

I wanted to fast forward 20 years, to see if maybe I'd feel that way someday—relieved it's over—waiting in line at the deli. We're expected to feel a sense of loss when our children don't need us anymore. When they're grown and gone, we're supposed to bemoan our empty nest, hunger for visits and contact. For confessions of love—when maybe all we get is a monthly phone call. Could that ever be me, I wondered. Relieved that the emotional intimacy of my children's childhood is all over?

I don't know. I keep thinking back to a conversation I had this week with my mother and Cam.

"You're so cute!" she said. "Do you have a girlfriend?"

He shrugged sheepishly and, in his little two-and-a-half year old voice, said, "I just have my mom. I just love my mom."

I hugged him. And he hugged me back. Hard.

Monday, October 23, 2017

How I finally caught the babysitter stealing

A few weeks ago in Mulletville Lite, I told you how I had begun to question the integrity of our babysitter, Kim. I believed she was stealing from us. I was right.

What follows is how I finally caught the bitch.

If you remember, I hired a new sitter because Kim was soon to depart the United States for a nannying job abroad. I still had Kim babysit here and there, however, because I knew she needed the money for her trip. (Can you hear the Universe laughing at me?)
One Monday, I had Kim come so I could run errands. I hadn't thought about the missing money in a long time, mostly because I'd been more careful with our money. We all had. Junior got birthday money from a relative he hadn't seen in awhile, and we'd put it in a sealed envelope in my bedroom. On the envelope he'd written "Junior's birthday money" in his child handwriting.

Again, I close my bedroom door every time I leave the house, and I'd naively thought that was enough of a deterrent.

Before I left to run errands, I saw that Chuck had emptied his wallet and left $180 on the bureau. I looked at the money and got goosebumps. It was surreptitious placement. I'm going to leave that there, I said to myself. If it is gone when I come back I will know that the wind didn't blow it off my bureau, Cam didn't throw it somewhere...I will know it was stolen.  

Off I went.

When I came back it was gone. 

Even worse, the envelope with Junior's birthday money was gone too.

I called Chuck. I was shaking. I thought I might throw up. I was filled with disgust, with rage and with disbelief. What a con artist this young woman was. Chuck said he'd drive home so I didn't have to confront her alone, so I stood in our bedroom and watched out of the window as Kim played with Cam.

About an hour later (!), Chuck pulled into the driveway. He took Cam into the living room and I calmly asked Kim about the missing money. At first she denied it. She even offered to help me look for it. Then Chuck walked in and told her we had the whole thing on video.

"You're caught," he said.

She looked down and pulled the $180 from her pocket.

"I'm sorry," she started.

"We don't want to hear it," I said. "You have 24 hours to return all of the money you stole or I'm calling the police."

Her face lost all color. It was the first time I'd seen any indication that she understood the magnitude of her choices. She begged us not to involve the police. She promised she'd have the money. And she did. She returned it the next morning, along with a pathetic letter of apology that blamed her thievery on fear, needing money for a relative's medical bills, debt, and so on. But I know the truth: She wanted to pad her pockets for her upcoming trip abroad.

It's been just about a month since this went down. I cut off all ties with Kim on social media, though for awhile I tormented myself by looking at her accounts—waiting for some indication that she felt remorse or regret or anything in that family, but there was nothing. Just selfies. Excitement for her trip. More selfies.

I guess that's the real offense of this experience: Even though I didn't commit a crime, I am the one dealing with a crisis of conscience. I'll forever regret not calling the police, only because I don't feel she learned a damn thing. But I wonder if it would have been worth it to involve them, to upturn a 19-year-old's life.

The kids asked about Kim for a few days, then she slipped from their minds. The new sitter is a dream come true, but I only have her come when I'm working from home. It took weeks to switch my brain off this topic. I relentlessly pursued the imagined details: Did she steal when Cam was napping? Was she so brazen that she snooped around my bedroom while he played by himself?

My bedroom felt sullied. Tainted. No longer a safe or enjoyable space, even though I rearranged the furniture. 

"Stop torturing yourself," Chuck would say. "None of that matters."

I guess he's right. No point in lingering in the unpleasantness, when the outcome could have been much worse.

I thought I'd feel a tremendous sense of relief the day Kim's plane took off, but life doesn't work like that. I feel better than I did, but I'll never trust anyone in my home again. Chuck and I are the dumb luckers who had that sitter. We are the cautionary tale. The learn-from-our-mistakers.

And to think that Kim was supposed to be an upgrade from the previous sitter—one who kept accidentally texting me things meant for her boyfriend. Yep, those kinds of things. But that is another blog post in itself.

P.S. I have contacted and and they have removed Kim from their websites.

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, 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:

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

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...

In defense of adoration—even in the deli line

The toddler was all over his mother. Cam and I were in line at the deli at Mulletville Lite's town grocery store, watching the lov...