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ABOUT ME

About me: I'm 42 and added another gherkin to our pickle party of a family. My husband Chuck, our 9-year-old Junior, our 6-year-old Everett, our toddler 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.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The fictitious land of Far Away

I'm sorry I haven't written since Thanksgiving. Since I started working from home last spring, every hour has a price tag attached to it and by the end of the day, when the dishes are finally done and the kids are finally in bed, I'm toast.

Since I blog from an unnamed town in Connecticut, I wanted to write to let people know that my family and I are okay. We live in the southeastern part of the state, "far away" from Newtown (anything more than a 45-minute drive is "far away" in Connecticut speak). 

Like most people, I spent the weekend wandering around the house asking Why and wiping away a steady stream of tears. We have been careful about listening to the radio and watching the television because we didn't want Junior to hear the news reports, but details have trickled in, and they're horrifyingly sad.

The tragedy didn't really hit home though until the communication started coming in from Junior's elementary school. It has left me speechless and fumbling. Elementary school was supposed to be about learning numbers, and how to write and read. How to make friends on the bus and how not to spill your juice box on your school work. All the sweet, innocent stuff. Instead many parents are reading letters like this:


Is there anything more heart-breaking? Honestly, I don't even care about my own distress—I have 38 years of coping skills under my belt. I've put in my time to become desensitized and weathered and strong. Elementary school kids? Losing a tooth is earth-shattering, never mind a friend or teacher or principal.

Another piece of communication reassured parents that one of the senior staff just got back from specialized SWAT team training. "This will be instrumental in planning future lock-down drills" the email read. I don't know which reaction is right: "Oh, good" or "What have we become?"

Fumbling. I am fumbling.  

This weekend reminded me a lot of 9-11. I was home sick from work when it happened. My mother and I were on the phone, watching the news as the towers fell. We cried as we watched the images of frightened people, covered in white ash, walk down the streets. The next moment my mother was at my apartment, hugging me like her life depended on it.

I now have given that same hug to my children about 4 million times. 

During times like this, we are so helpless. We are so vulnerable. And it is so gut-wrenching and bittersweet that who and what we are reaching out to for comfort (children, spouses, parents, loved ones, pets) are here with us so fleetingly. It just isn't fair.

I'm going to go crawl into bed with Junior and kiss his face. There never really is a "far away" when something like this happens.

Never ever.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hasta la vista Connecticut. I'm going to the land of Cheaper Gas

Chuck and I are getting out of town with the kids for Thanksgiving.

It's a good thing. All of my family lives nearby, so we see each other all the time. When the holidays come, we're so sick of each other we're all desperate for an excuse to do something else.

This year our friends in Maryland invited us to their house. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I'm excited to go south. I'm not so excited about the prospect of sitting in traffic, trapped in a car with two kids under age five, but it'll be an adventure, and if you couldn't tell from my last post (was it really two weeks ago?), I really could use an adventure.

So good-bye for the week. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. I hope you're fabulously close—or deliciously far away—from your family. If you eat too much, I hope you own pants with an elastic waistband. I hope you're thankful for all the things that are going right in your life, and equally as hopeful about all the things that are going wrong. I don't say that I'm thankful nearly enough on this blog (in fact, sometimes it horrifies me how much I kvetch), but I really am thankful.

(Did you hear that, Mr. Sunshine? Didja?)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An attempted love note to my motherly self

I was going to post some Hurricane Sandy photos for my first "welcome back to power and its modern conveniences" post—yes, it blew—but the photo below is so much more timely.



It's fluffy snow covering my jack-o'-lanterns and mums, and I took the picture tonight, right after we got back from trick or treating. See, the town postponed Halloween a week because of the hurricane. Then we got a nor'easter. (There's a punch line in there somewhere, right?) And even though the temperature is 32, and snow is blowing and it's ass butt cold, the neighborhood parents convinced me (Chuck was stuck at work) that I should join them trick or treating for the kids. 

"They're so excited," one mom told me. "You can't not take them out."

Um, yes I can not. 

Except, I let her talk me into it. 

The kids' costumes needed some refining. Instead of being a knight, Junior wore snow pants, boots, a jacket, a hat and gloves. I crammed two cardboard "skis" down the back of his jacket. Voila...a skier. I stuffed Everett's snowsuit with socks and pantyhose until he was so puffy he couldn't bend over. Voila...Ralphie's brother from A Christmas Story.


We hit the streets. 

No one had their lights on. Rather, every 10th house had their lights on, so we did a fair amount of trudging. Up hills. Across lawns. Zig zagging streets. There were casualties. The plow went by twice. One kid fell off the steps and into the shrubs. Everett lost a mitten. Candy became wet and frozen. The snow stung our eyes. My toes and chin went numb. 

"This is ridiculous," I said to an elderly women who greeted us at one door.

"You're crazy!" she hissed at us. "Crazy!"

"She's right!" I cried as we walked away. "What are we doing? Our parents wouldn't have braved a nor'easter for us—so we could trick or treat for a handful of candy. We are crazy." 

I said I was done. I said I was going home.

Most of the neighbors agreed, except for one father.

"You seem to be doing a lot of complaining," he said.

His comment left me speechless. I had assumed we were all in the same boat: miserably dragging ourselves through the cold and snow so our already-indulged children (who'd celebrated Halloween last week at a neighborhood party and at a school-wide costume parade) could again experience the novelty of trick or treating. I had assumed we all couldn't wait for it to be over.

Instead, I guess, Mr. Sunshine.

Back at the homestead—and again basking in the delicious heat of the furnace—I told Chuck I wanted to punch Mr. Sunshine's lights out. How dare he accuse me of complaining. How dare he.

"He's dumb," Chuck offered.

Maybe. But here's the thing. I refuse to feel ashamed because I wasn't aglow in the joy of doing Halloween for the fifth time. I couldn't use a stroller in the snow. Everett couldn't keep up with the older kids, so I carried him the entire time. In his snowsuit. All 30 pounds of him. 

Chuck and I made Junior two costumes this year. We decorated pumpkins. We raked leaves and jumped. We drank cider. We made caramel apples. We listened to the Monster Mash. Again and again and again. We even did the damn crayon and leaf rubbings and framed them. We did Halloween. I loved all of it (most of it) but for God's sake, it's almost Thanksgiving. At this point, Halloween needed to be taken out back and shot already.

I hate that I even need to justify my actions—my dedication to my child. I hate that I feel better seeing my argument in print when deep down, I know I'm a damn good mother. That's my problem, not Mr. Sunshine's, but the whole exchange begs the question: when is it ever enough?

I keep thinking I know the answer. Then I realize, I know so very little. 

(Except that I hate Halloween in the snow! Hate it, you jackass.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Parents found drunk in foul smelling basement with a chicken



Storm Sandy is headed for Connecticut. Luckily we have a basement stocked with beans and a liquor cabinet stocked with vodka. We'll be gaseous and drunk but by God, we'll be safe (I hope).

Incidentally, I don't mind if this storm postpones Halloween because I have no idea what Junior is going to dress up as. One minute he wants to be a washing machine, the next Optimus Prime. And Everett? He won't even let me put an arm into his costume:



I tried—nicely—to wrestle him into it, but he didn't want any part of it.

He's in for a big surprise if Storm Sandy hits and we lose power, and we need to wear shit like this to stay warm.

Now you understand this post's title...and why I'm kind of dreading Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

This probably won't happen to you

I shouldn't even post this post because as soon as I do, anyone who read my last post and thought, Oh, honey, bad shit happens to kids all the time, that 'True story' column in Parents magazine is gold, will get to revel in their smugness.

But if you've learned anything about me from this blog, you know that I don't mind providing sustenance for smug people from time to time. It all comes out the other end eventually.

So here goes. Last week, Everett and I were standing in the back yard, patiently waiting for Junior's kindergarten bus to come. If you're from Connecticut too, 1) I'm sorry and 2) you know that it was brutally windy all week.

While we stood there, getting mussed about, this plastic kiddie pool waited right alongside us.

 

As soon as I heard the bus I said to Everett, "Let's go get—"

But I never finished my sentence because the wind picked up the pool and blew it through the air. Then it rolled on its side toward Everett, knocked him down, and fell on top of him.

Of course, I ran to him. And then suddenly Junior was at my side, demanding to know what was going on.

"What happened? Mom, what happened? What happened, Mom?"

Everett was upset. Junior was upset that Everett was upset. I was upset, too, but I was also incredulous. I half expected someone from Parents magazine to emerge from the woods and say, "Fuck with us on your blog, will you? I'd think twice about that next time."

I really did look over my shoulder one too many times. 

After the excitement died down and the kids' tears had been wiped away, I secured the pool with some logs. I spent the rest of the afternoon somewhere between bemusement—Really? Attacked by a rogue kiddie pool?—and befuddlement. You know, I can't believe that days after I bitch about the 'True story' column my kid gets creamed by a rogue kiddie pool and I think to myself, Wow, that would make a really good 'True story'.

I also was immensely grateful my kid hadn't been decapitated. He'll probably never swim again, or maybe he'll have reoccurring nightmares about flying blue orbs, but it all worked out. I even planned on telling the neighbors about it when I saw them later that night. Like, Hahaha, you'll never guess what happened this afternoon.

But they recently had a new baby—number four—and somehow, just somehow, the story never made it to the table.

Monday, October 15, 2012

As a parent you should always be afraid. Of everything. Especially couches. And whisks. And throw pillows. And windchimes. I said everything, didn't I?!

I've really enjoyed reading Parents magazine over the years. When I first had Junior, I giddily raced out and bought an issue; yes, tell me everything I need to know about #2 nipples and cutting sandwiches into fun, cool shapes! Please.

Lately, however, I have begun swearing at the magazine. It's because of their monthly column, "True story." If you're not familiar with the column, it details horrific, "real-life" injuries sustained by poor, innocent children at the hands of their parents.

Like this poor kid below, maimed by a coat hanger:



If only the sweet girl's mother hadn't had the poor judgement to buy clothing that needed to be hung up, this senseless tragedy could have been avoided.

And this sad little cowboy (the column used to be called "It happened to me"—insert demonic mwahahahahaha cackle):



If only the boy's mother had put down the crack pipe—I mean, battery-powered toy—and decided to switch to wooden toys, this child's suffering could have been prevented.

Every month it's a similar tale. Children come close to losing fingers because of stray hairs (!). Coffee grinds that should have been thrown away (!) end up in shoes and cause disfiguring bunions. Salt and pepper shakers that should have been glued down to the table (!) end up stuck in eardrums, rupturing them and causing the worst case of deafness known to mankind.

There's this pervasive sense that "If only I'd seen the danger in that [insert harmless everyday object] little Billy wouldn't have to limp to school. Learn from my example...before it's too late."

But you can't learn from examples that aren't realistically preventable. You don't have 10,000,000 eyes in the back of your head, ergo you can't be sure that even though you bolted your plastic hangers to the coat rack, someone else didn't come along and accidentally yank one off and forget about it on the floor.

For Pete's sake, the damn dog could have bumped the rack and undone all your hyper-vigilant handy work.

And for fuck's sake, do you really have the mental stamina to be sure your child isn't sitting beneath you every time you unscrew the battery casing on your children's toys?

I've written about the fear mongering before (yah, I hated the Superbowl suggestion) and I'll continue to do so. We have to stop believing that we can prevent bad things from happening to our kids if only we watched them more, or put them in rubber suits, or thought ahead more, or planned more, or glued things down more.

Features like "True story" perpetuate paranoia and guilt. Yes, accidents happen and when they do you'll feel bad and wish you could make it all better, but columns like this turn everyday objects and tasks into worst case scenarios. They make you look at the coat hangers in your closet and think, This could kill someone!

And here we thought wire hangers were bad.

Not anymore, apparently.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When husbands stray



I can't believe Elmo had the nerve to look straight at me when I caught him and Chuck canoodling on the couch. Spooning! In front of the kids. 

Touche, Chuck. We're even.

P.S. Don't you just love the word canoodling?

Monday, October 8, 2012

And now, a novel about female bosses and why the Transformers should be our management model

Working part-time out of the house a few days a week and doing freelance graphic design during the other days has essentially morphed into another full-time job (ironically, I probably work more hours than I did when I worked at Mulletville Corp). But I'm not complaining. Oooh no.

For the first time in my 20 years of working, I work for someone who isn't evil. Even more shocking, it's a woman.

I haven't had much luck working for women. My first boss was a woman who gave me the silent treatment when I made a mistake; it was up to me to figure out just what that mistake was and how to tiptoe around her until the frost melted. Eventually I quit.

During my second job, I had two female supervisors. They were joined at the hip. One had a crush on a male co-worker who had a crush on me. Both women gave me shit projects and reviews as a result. Eventually I quit.

My third job I worked under a woman who was eight months pregnant. She wanted me to lie on my TPS reports. Yep, quit.

My fourth job, at Mulletville Corp, was one of the most horrific experiences of my life. My boss, Kathleen, had a breakdown on my first day. She made my life miserable for years. (If you want to know more about the traits of bad bosses, she inspired the post). I'd like to say that I quit under her tenure, but I lasted past her retirement and inherited a new female supervisor—one whose secretary would do the irritated sigh for her when I was late or, um, late, or um, even later. 

Yes, I was late a lot, but my new boss was also a mother—to two adults—and had told me from day one that she understood that things come up when you have two young children at home. Her "understanding" lasted a whole three weeks. It quickly became apparent that she expected me to be the kind of working mother she'd been when her children were young: one who comes in early, stays late, offers to work holidays, and answers emails at 11:30 at night.

I wasn't.

She voiced her concern to the Marketing Head. I started hiding my purse and jacket in the car. I dreaded seeing her and her sour expression. Even though I was doing my job well, I started to feel like I was always in the wrong. I apologized constantly.

I was lucky as hell to be able to quit.    

So yes, based on all of my experiences, I find female bosses to be catty, manipulative, insecure, irrational, emotional, abusive, and bitchy. I'd almost given up on women, in fact—until I took my new job.

My new boss gets it. And here's how:

A few weeks ago, I needed to work from home. I emailed her and asked if she'd mind. After I hit send, panic set in. The internal voices started up. She thinks I'm a slacker. She doesn't think I can handle working and homelife. She hates me. She wants to fire me. And so on. Then, an email from her, saying it was fine. She trusted me to get my work done. She was glad to have me on her team.

After I relayed all this to Chuck—he was riveted—he quickly put it into perspective: "Wow, you're really fucked up because of your old bosses."

He's absolutely right. This is the first woman for whom I've worked in close to 20 years who has given me genuine, positive feedback. I actually need to train my mind to understand that she's not out to sabotage me.

Her effective management makes me want to do a better job. 

The funny thing is, my son is learning this lesson right now from the Transformers.
Optimus Prime, leader of the nicey nice Autobots, always praises his team; in turn, they want to serve him. Meanwhile, Megatron, leader of the evil Decepticons, shats on his underling, Starscream, all the time; in turn, Starscream wants to overthrow him.

I'm not kidding when I say that I watched this episode and thought, "Holy shit, the cartoons covered this when we were children. Children!"

I make a motion that the Transformers be shown in boardrooms. Or at least be worked into the management syllabus in college.

Who's with me?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Special Halloween projects for the kids

I'm dying. Absolutely dying.



This is so much cooler than Martha's fake bat templates. So.Much.Cooler.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Keep your hands off my dots

I'm all over the place on this blog, I know. One day I'm talking about the economy, the next plastic spiders, the next pajamas, and the next freeze-dried tortilla soup. I want to try to connect the dots, I really do, but I'm coming to realize that these days my dots behave more and more like rodents that scatter in the light than like pretty, orderly circles—and that maybe trying to connect them is a lost cause.

My dots are a huge clusterfuck and I need to embrace that.

Here ye! Here ye!

Of course, I blame my dot mutiny on the children.They've all but ransacked my brain.

Take tonight for example. All I wanted to do was brush their teeth. Two children. Two toothbrushes. An Elmo toothbrush for Everett; a Transformers toothbrush for Junior. Thomas the Train non-fluoride toothpaste for Everett. Kid's Crest for Junior.

(Do you see what I'm doing? I'm lining up my dots...)

We were doing fine. We were getting along swimmingly. Then, in a matter of seconds, mayhem.

Someone was shouting weiner. There was toothpaste on the wall. The cat jumped out of the tub. I stepped on Mr. Potato Head's eyeglasses. Frothy blue drool ran down chins. Someone needed a towel. Someone needed to spit. The Thomas the Train wall decal was stuck to someone's shirt. No, it wasn't. It's Gordon, Mommy! Don't you remember Gordon?! And then Everett, I honed in on his teeth like a ninja. Armed with Elmo, darting in and out of his little mouth to get those tiny crevices.

Hold still, please hold still.

(Cue dot explosion.)

When the toothbrushes were finally rinsed and placed back into their cups my head actually felt hole-y.

And I hadn't even gotten into pajamas—"Please stop jumping. Please get your finger out of your nose"—or picked stories—"Please not Dr. Seuss again, Junior. Mommy's brain hurts"—or told bed time stories—"There once was a man with a nose. No wait, a horse. And the horse had a nose? Sorry, where was I?"—or shot down the stalling tactics—"Junior, honey, your curtains are .005 centimeters apart..."  

But this is nothing new. When I was pregnant with Junior in 2007, my co-worker told me that parenting was the toughest job I'll ever love (remember that Peace Corps slogan?). These observations, these ruminations, are nothing new. There are so many parenting blogs now, they're actually becoming tiresome.

Still, I wonder: Where is the fairy or woodland creature that will magically appear and grant me a few months off so I can catch up on sleep? I love my spawn, I really do, but this fog has enveloped the land—the land! We should all give ourselves some major credit for even knowing how to write our own names, never mind helping our off-spring learn how to write their own.

Or dot their i's.

Now that is something I cannot help with.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

On a lighter, cheerier note

It's a little after eight and both children are asleep. I guess I could have tweeted this and/or Facebooked it—really, is it blog worthy—and then stumpledUpon myself or binged myself or whatever else one does in this social media age to document every minute act—"Just farted!"—but no, I can't waste time on that. The kids are asleep and I finally have a few minutes of peace to catch up on some of my favorite blogger's posts.

I can read! Uninterrupted!

So tell me, who are your must-go-tos?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Deep thoughts from Open House

Chuck and I went to Junior's kindergarten Open House this week.

I'm still depressed about it—but the triggers aren't the usual suspects. Sure I'm a little saddened as the reality sinks in of how fast it really does go (Junior's legs look like giraffe legs. I get his shoes and Chuck's shoes confused).

The triggers are the economy and, well, shit, the economy.

As the teacher prattled on about tests, scores, reading, math and homework, all I could think was,

Crap. What if the economy is still terrible when Junior graduates? What if he doesn't excel at anything in particular and ends up with a useless Liberal Arts degree, like every other poor fool who goes to college without knowing what to major in? Worse, what if he decides to be an English major? And he has $120,000 in college debt and the only job he can find is at the local copy shop? What if he's like my brother, who is almost 30 and doesn't have health insurance because his job keeps his hours just under the state requirement to offer insurance? What if Junior's student loans are so high he can't afford rent and has to live with me and Chuck? What if it just doesn't get better? And look, this teacher is worried about the alphabet?? Who the fuck cares about Dick and Jane! Families can't feed their children! Dick and Jane have to split a hotdog every night. They whimper in their beds. Spot is licking the kitchen floor for crumbs. Crumbs! Let's keep our focus!

When the teacher finished, I all but scraped myself off the floor. The economy hits home with me. Chuck's been laid off twice. Our house in Mulletville is on the market for thousands and thousands—and thousands—less than what we bought it for. My brother is scared to get sick. I've been bringing our extras from dinner down to one of our neighbors because I know they don't have enough money for groceries.

Everyone seems to be struggling. Well, not everyone




but I sure as fuck don't want to talk politics.

Love those kindergarten open houses. Can't wait to see what I glean from the parent teacher conference. Maybe I should pop a Xanax first.   

On a totally unrelated note, I owe efoods a review of some freeze-dried food they sent me.


I know it doesn't sound particularly appealing, but this stuff is delicious. In fact, we are saving the last two packages for a later date. They were that good. And we have time. The food doesn't expire until 2027, which, curiously, is right about the time Junior will graduate from college.

I guess I know what I'll be serving on his first night back home with us.

Review to come!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How to have a heart attack

1. Have children.

2. Try not to get a lot of sleep. (Yes, I know, that statement is laughable.)

3. Go down into the basement to retrieve an old trunk one of your ex-boyfriends gave you many years ago (repainting it is going to be so, so delicious).

4. Notice the cob webs and crusty sacks of ick dangling from it. Clean the goo, making sure to shriek and flail around a bit. Trudge upstairs with it.

5. Congratulate yourself. You've got spiders and creepy crawly things on the brain. You're perfectly primed for the next step.

6. Get on your hands and knees so you can pull out all of your children's cars and trucks from underneath the train table (that's why you were in the basement retrieving the trunk. You can keep toys from copulating and multiplying if you hide them, right?)

7. Reach underneath the train table...deep into the darkness...feel around with your hands...don't forget about those crusty sacks of ick you just cleaned. Are you ready? Ready for that heart attack?















8. There we go! Leggy things! Right by your face! Scream! Scream bloody murder and clutch your heart! Scream so loud that your kid starts screaming too. Scream and scream some more!

9. Now stop. Look, see? They're not even moving. Blow on them to see if they scatter.

10. There you go. Your mental faculties are slowly coming back. Go ahead and flick that mammoth spider and his yellow side-kick around a little. Yah, stomp on them! They don't care. They're just rubber and plastic remnants from your kid's bug-themed fifth birthday party, you jackass. Nothing to fret about.

11. Sit down. It's only 9:45 but it's been a long morning. Make a mental note for next year's party theme: cute, fluffy bunnies and rainbows. What were thinking when you picked bugs? Kids' birthday parties are rotten enough without prolonging the mental agony.

12. While you're sitting down, try to decide on a paint color for that horrible trunk. What you thinking when you dated dandruff-in-eyebrows man? What?

If you need tips on how to enjoy your Thursday, you'll feel some handy ones here. No charge, I promise.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I need sexier pajamas

When I was in my early twenties I got a job as an editor at a gourmet food magazine. I wrote about this a while ago—mostly so I could explain my fondness for men named Rico—but lately I've been thinking about someone else from that time in my life.

I don't even know the woman's name, but she was a freelance designer for the magazine, and I hated her with a passion.

Hated her.

Every month, she'd mail me a disk with her intricate food drawings, and even though I kinda sorta knew what I was doing, she'd insist on talking on the phone and walking me through each drawing, and where it was supposed to go, and how it should be labeled, and what side of the page it should be on, and how many pixels it should be.

She was a major pain in the ass about her work.  

The whole time we were on the phone, I could hear kids screaming in the background. She'd cup her hand over the phone and hiss, "I'M ON THE PHONE," but the kids would keep screaming. Sometimes she'd talk over their screams, and I'd have to hold the phone away from my ear.

Every month. 

I always imagined her standing in her kitchen in a ratty pink bathrobe. Pancake batter stuck to her sleeve. Kids climbing her legs. Her beautiful drawings created a strange dichotomy in my mind. Was she haggard or poetic? Dingy or magical? 

Until today, I hadn't thought about that woman in years. Then there I was, on the phone with a new client—why hello, new WAH life, where Sundays are actually part of the work week—when Junior decided to pitch a fit about something absurd.

I think he found a brown spot on his banana.

I covered the phone and hissed, "PLEASE STOP." The client didn't laugh when I made a joke about children and bipolar behavior. Actually, I didn't make a joke, I shouted a joke over his fit.

I picked him up, handed him to Chuck and raced outside, where I finished the conversation on my front steps—in my pajamas.    

After the call was over I sat there a while. I looked down at my crummy pajamas. The peanut butter on my pajama pant leg.

Stupid freelance woman. 

Here's the thing. I thought I hated her for such simple reasons: she was anal and her kids were annoying. But now I understand. I hated her because she was who I someday dreamed of being: a mom and an artist. I hated her because she didn't seem to know how her children fit into her professional life. I hated her because she wasn't perfect, and because I was young and idealistic and wanted her, a working mother, to be perfect.  

She probably hated me too. I was curt and impatient. She probably wanted to say, "Look, I have kids and I'm trying to be true to myself professionally. It's not easy, so fuck off."

Ah, now that. That would be a satisfying thing to say. I mean look, the last time I was outside in my pajamas, I made a run for it. I actually ran.

Sigh.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who is that hairy dude??

I got a big freelance job working from home. The kind that will actually help me afford to put gas in my car. I thought it was a dream come true—until I tried to actually do my job while keeping two little people happy.

Actually, screw happy. How about just plain ole QUIET?

I've calmly explained to my five-year-old that I need to work on a project for "Mommy's client" so many times, he's actually made up a song about it. He plugs his nose and sings (in a very bored voice):

Mommy's cli-ent
Mommy's client
Mommy's cli-ent
Mommy's client...

It's not a very good song, but I don't blame him for the nasal chorus. Life does suddenly feel awfully congested. In the five years since I became a mom, I've thought so much about the pros and cons of WOHM and SAHM arrangements (always while enmeshed in the other), I never even thought about the WAHM life.  

I'm so happy I got invited to this schmorgesborg too. It's so...insane. 

Anyway, so yes, I have been gone from the blogosphere a lot but unlike every other time I've taken a little break, this time I mean it when I say I'm so balls to the wall I can't see straight. My laundry is up to the ceiling. I can't find the cat. I think Chuck grew a beard, otherwise there's some really hairy guy sleeping in my bed with me. I eat, pee and parent while taking phone calls. I get up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 2 a.m. I've started making lists and posting them everywhere.

EVERYWHERE.

But here's the thing: I kind of like it. The craziness, that is. And having something productive to do while the kids watch Curious George. Big bonus: if someone's going to sing a patronizing song about your employer

Mommy's cli-ent
Mommy's client
Mommy's cli-ent
Mommy's client... 

It's so much more enjoyable coming from your kid than from that asshole in the next cubicle over. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Where I've been for two weeks

For the last two weeks, Everett has been waking up two and three times a night—screaming—then he's up again at 5:30 a.m. Again, screaming. This from a child who used to sleep soundly from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.

Chuck's been out of town for work, so it's just me and the shithead in the wee morning hours.

My ass is dragging so much I can't think of anything funny to say about where my ass actually is.

This morning, I needed something. I couldn't chug a beer (or, rather, I didn't). I don't huff caffeine—or anything else for that matter—and the water wasn't even boiling yet for the coffee press. I don't smoke. So I grabbed a Dove chocolate bar and shoved it into my mouth.

It was creamy wonderfulness.

As good as it was, it didn't remedy what's been ailing me. In fact, nothing has remedied Everett's crappy sleep schedule. I've tried everything, from checking for new teeth, to checking for soiled diapers. From checking for fevers, to checking for Charlie horses.

None of the above. 

I've tried feeding him more. Feeding him less. Changing his bedding. Dressing him more cooly. Dressing him more warmly. Letting him cry. Picking him up. Giving him more stuffed animals. Giving him more fans. Putting him down sooner. Putting him down later. He likes cats; I even thought about putting cat pictures on the wall.

You get the idea.

Then, today, I asked Junior if he knew why Everett was waking up screaming.

"It's creepy in his bedroom," he said.

"Creepy?"

"It's too dark."

"So you wouldn't want to sleep in there?"

"No way."
 
Aha!

Tonight, I busted out the night lights. I left the curtains open. I left on the bathroom light.

So far, so good. Granted, it's only 8:30 p.m. but from what I can tell from downstairs, he seems to be sleeping soundly.

Ah, wait. I'm getting a message. Yes! Yes! My ass is upstairs and just confirmed it: Everett is sound asleep.

Halle-poo-jah!

(Amazing how having children makes opportunities for butt jokes strangely irresistible.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

When they come down the stairs...

...after you have put them to bed, and you're exhausted because they were up the previous night throwing up or losing stuffed animals or falling apart because their blankets were askew, and they look at you and moan, "I'm still hungry" or "I need a drink" and you quickly—urgently! expediently!—shuffle them back upstairs and plop them down—urgently! expediently! before they can make any new requests!—and kiss them again and tell them GOOD NIGHT again, and you close the door and quietly, gingerly, tiptoe away and collapse onto the couch...

When those things happen, I am reminded of horror movies. You know the scenes: the good guy has just shot/stabbed/weed whacked the bad guy and the good guy takes one last trepidatious walk around the body, hoping—praying—he's finally in the clear and

WHAM! The bad guy leaps up and grabs the good guy's ankle and attempts to get him just ONE LAST TIME—"I'm still hungry"—and the good guy grasps at whatever he can—'Too bad, you should have eaten more dinner!"—to impale the bad guy just ONE LAST TIME, JUST PLEASE LET THIS TIME BE IT.

Personally, the final scene of "Sleeping with the Enemy" always comes to mind (perhaps because it takes place at the bottom of the stairwell) but really, you can custom-fit this little mental game to any of your favorite slasher films.

Special, huh? This post is so going in the kids' baby books.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Children's book to agent? Check. Slice of humble pie? Yes, please

Well, now that we've gotten all that heavy stuff out of the way, let's get back to the fun stuff. Namely how I made good on a promise I made to myself years ago. I finally—finally—submitted a children's book I wrote to an agent.

Yes!

I've been eagerly awaiting a response for months. I only submitted the story, which is a one page rhyming picture book, to one agent. She was highly recommended by a friend of mine. In fact, my friend practically guaranteed I'd get published because this agent's specialty is quirky, weird authors who write quirky, weird stories.

Ding, ding.

Well, the agent responded via email last week. (If there's an astrologer reading this post, could you shoot me an email and explain why the Universe threw me a trifecta of thunderbolts last week? I'm Capricorn, thanks.)

Before I read the agent's email I imagined the best: a 3-book deal. Phrases like "You're amazing!" Accolades. Advances.

I'd sat on this dream for more than a decade. Why not give myself a mental orgasm? Why not?

I soon found out why not.

The agent responded in bold, capital letters. So easy on the eyes! She used words like "heavy handed," "clunky" and "implausible."

Um hello, is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs plausible? The townspeople are fed by the skies. Is any Curious George story plausible? Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't most children's books loved and revered because of the nut-grabbing fabulousness of their implausibility? 

The agent told me that if a teacher behaved the way mine had in my story she'd be fired and/or sued. "THERE WOULD BE A REVOLT!"

I guess she hasn't read Lynn Plourde's Science Fair Day—the one where the teacher lets a little girl wreck other kids' science projects without reprimanding her whatsoever. Or how about when Curious George visits his friend's school for the day and none of the parents sign waivers? What kind of teacher would allow that?

Nope, according to this agent, if it's a children's book it must be politically correct.  

And then. I understand that pulling off a book full of rhymes is challenging, not so much because of the task itself but because the rhymes must feel effortless. You must not feel as if someone picked a word just because. Sadly, she accused me of just that. 

Like Steve Martin's children's book Late for School? I wanted to ask. When he writes, "Elbowed grandma passing by. Her face went into a pie"? Why the hell is grandma eating pie for breakfast? Wouldn't an Ensure or a big ole bowl of Fiber One be more plausible?

Or how about when Martin writes, "Leapt across three lawn flamingos. Waved to Sal, he's Filipino." 

Really?

I didn't bother telling the agent any of this. I accepted her critique. I thanked her profusely for her input. And you know what? I don't feel that bad. One, because venting is good. Second, because at least I got the damn draft out of my house and into a mailbox. Third, because I let my mother read it and you know what she said?

"This is cute. Did you write this in elementary school?"

Er, maybe it does need some revising...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Just another uneventful week...my ass

Something wonderful and terrible happened last week, right around the time we were ringing in Junior's fifth birthday.

My father stopped over and happened to catch Junior pushing one of Chuck's video game magazines under the kitchen table. When my father asked him why, he told him that the cover was too scary. The magazine needed to be placed far, far away from everything.

Junior was right. The cover had a monster with fangs, talons and blood-red eyes.

My father asked Junior to sit down with him and explain what was so scary, but Junior wouldn't even look at the magazine cover. So he told Junior to get some paper and markers, which he did. He bet Junior that he could draw something even scarier, which he professed to have accomplished—although the images were ridiculous and, of course, elicited many laughs from Junior. 

He told Junior to draw something even scarier than that. This is Junior's monster eating machine:


My father and Junior did this for some time. 

As I watched them on the couch, I suddenly remembered being a child. I remembered how my father's factual approach to things I'd found scary and unknown had made them feel tangible. Manageable, even. 

I thought about how lucky Junior was to get to experience that for himself. It made me appreciate all the ways we as parents may not understand the profound impact we have on our children's outlook, and of course, how they confront what they are most afraid of.  

It also made me think about God. 

See, at the moment my father and Junior were drawing pictures, I was thinking about the doctor's appointment from which I'd just come. I'd found out that I would need an MRI to rule out a cancer diagnosis in my brain. The doctor didn't know what was wrong on my x-ray from the previous week, which he'd done because of recurring headaches. There was a good chance it wasn't cancer, but once you hear a doctor mention that word as a possibility, it's all you can think about. 

You think of it as you sing your five-year-old "Happy Birthday." As you kiss your children good-night. As you do the dinner dishes. I won't list every activity during which you think about possibly having cancer; suffice it to say, it's all consuming if you don't beat it back with a stick.

Since that night last week, I've had the MRI and gotten the results.

I've learned that I do not have cancer.

I can't help but think that I've been given two gifts in the course of seven days: one, of course, the healthy prognosis. But that's not where God comes in. He comes in when I think about the second gift, the scene between my father and Junior. Because while I was watching them, I could almost hear someone whispering, "See, look, this is how you're going to handle this. You're going to grab yourself some markers and..."

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Autobutts don't cry over birthday cake

Junior turned five last week. It doesn't seem possible that five years have gone by and yet, poof, there you go.

Five years.

In the last few months the Thomas the Train decals have come down from his bedroom walls—"too babyish"—and the "big kid" toys have eeked their way into our lives. It's been challenging for me. I can build an elaborate train track for a Useful Engine. I cannot, however, transform Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, from a truck into a robot in under 45 minutes.


 Even with the aid of the instructions—which are the size of a tablecloth.


Optimus Prime and his robot friends have met the Little People, though, so I guess they're here to stay.


I had wanted to write an eloquent post—a real ode to this child of mine who seems to outgrow a pair of shorts a day—but I find myself scrambling for the right words to express my feelings about Junior's fifth birthday. There's happiness, of course, that he's a bright, energetic and compassionate kid, but there's also wistfulness. How did it go by so quickly? Does he have to keep growing?

There's a little bit of frustration—for frick's sake he's five now, does he still have to whine?—and then there is appreciation. Now that Junior understands more and is more articulate, he feels more like a real person. There's actual dialogue. I appreciate his presence in a way that I didn't when he was a screaming, unreachable toddler.

Go figure.

There's curiosity. How will he handle kindergarten? There's anxiety. What if he's teased?

Yes, there's a bit of everything in this birthday.

I underlined a line in a book I'm reading, and I suppose it captures what I'm trying to say a lot more succinctly that I have. The book is Best Friends, Worst Enemies. When I grabbed it off the shelf I thought it was a book about siblings; it's actually about the social lives of children. The line is this:

"...a central paradox of parenting is that we securely attach with our children so that we can someday let them go."

Why didn't someone tell me this journey was going to be so damn bittersweet?

Happy birthday, Junior. You are loved.

Monday, July 16, 2012

5 ways motherhood has made me stealthlier. Alternate title: My brain now has tentacles

That was a bold declaration I made in my last post. You know, the one where I patted myself on the back and pronounced that I rock motherhood sometimes. It's true though, some days I do feel like I have a handle on things. I really, really do.

Then one of the kids will grow up a little more and change the rules a little bit and I'll look at him and think, Frick, this is uncharted territory. Now what?

It's like making it to the next level of a video game only to find that the magic torch and invisible cloak with which you'd defeated the wizard in the previous level are now worthless.

But I'm wiser for having children. Here are 5 ways how:

1. Reinforcing basic people skills ("Say you're sorry to Billy for taking his toy") has made me a better communicator.
Before having kids I would have sat back and enjoyed the fireworks of a good argument. Now, if someone is having a disagreement, I feel more confident helping them work it out. I've reasoned with this, after all:



2. Five years of explaining things to a child ("Trees produce oxygen, so we shouldn't cut them all down") has improved my professional career.
Before having kids I would have just written off a colleague as inept if she/he didn't understand a point I was making. Now, I know better how to put 1 + 2 together for him/her. Spelling things out makes everyone happy, especially bosses.

3. Trying to anticipate the irrational needs of a little person ("You wanted a blue one? But your favorite color is red!") has challenged me to prepare for anything and everything.
Before having kids I would have forgotten my own tampons. Now, instead of thinking in linear terms, the tentacles in my brain stretch to the far recesses. I pack supplies for everyone, even the cat. I trouble shoot for Scenario A, G, and Q. You'd be amazed at how often Q happens. 

4. Being continuously interrupted in the bathroom (Knock! Bang! "Mom, I need you now!") has made me a whiz at finding "me time" anywhere.
Before having kids I would have gone in, done my business, and gotten out. Now I sneak upstairs, lock the door, sit on the bath mat and read a few chapters from my favorite book or Real Simple magazine. If anyone were to call me out, a simple toilet flush would silence them (yes, two can play at that game, Chuck). 

5. Being under constant surveillance ("Mom, are you eating ice cream? Can I have some? Can I??") has made me adept at product placement.
Before having kids I would have shoved whatever I wanted into my mouth whenever I wanted to. Now, small beady eyes watch me like scavengers. I have to be better, faster, smarter. I'll put Oreos in the broccoli bag, chocolate bars in the soap dish. As long as you pass the first suspicious glance, you have a few minutes to actually taste the food on the way down. Although, it's amazing how much you can cram into your mouth while rummaging through the fridge for that darn apple juice.

Shoot, is it really 9:15? Arg. I just thought of another one: Being constantly robbed of my sleep ("Mom, I dropped my bear! I need to pee!) has made me a skittish sleeper. Dear God, they could be up at any hour for any issue.

Goodnight. Go to bed!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Please love socks forever, please love socks forever...



I keep a little pair of socks in a little bowl on my night stand. I keep them there because changing Everett's clothes or diaper is a major pain in my ass. He won't lie still. He thinks that flailing his arms and legs is a game. He likes to kick.

I've never mud wrestled or hog tied anything, but I imagine that this is what it's like. Reasoning with him doesn't work. Singing to him does nothing. He's impervious to "no" and "please stop."

So yes, socks.

This is what I do: I lie him down on the bed. As soon as he starts to squirm or flip over, I grab the socks and put them over his hands like mitts. As he laughs and tries to get them off, I quickly—and I mean quickly—slip on his clothes, take a shot of tequila, and/or praise the Heavens that this sock-on-hands game has worked again.

I know one day it won't.

I dread that day.

But let's not think about that right now. Let's think ahead to the day that Everett enrolls in puppet school so he can pursue his childhood dream of becoming a puppeteer. Guess what? I'm going to take full credit for birthing the next Jim Henson. I mean really, how great am I? Employing the age-old art of distraction and instilling in him a love of the arts.

We're seconds away from cotton ball eyes and pipe cleaner mouths! Seconds

Motherhood: we so rock this shit sometimes.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I don't want a hot dog. I want my baby back

Chuck's response to my last post—the one regarding his long-winded siiiiigggghs about the wobbly toilet seat—elicited this response:

"Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh."

Like I couldn't have seen that coming.

Just as I was about to torture him for a more concise response, my friend Rachel called, so I let him off the hook.

Rachel was a mess. Even more so than when she almost bought out Babies R Us. She had her first baby a few months ago, and she's kind of freaking out about it. To make matters worse, she's freaking out about the fact that she's freaking out.

When she called me, I told her what one of my wise friends had told me when I first had Junior: "Don't even try to get your shit together until, like, week 16. Just don't." (She also bought me "The Girlfriend's Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood" which I highly recommend.)

It's true. You're a wad of hormones and responsibility. You feel guilty because you secretly wish the hospital would take your baby back so you can get some sleep and try to figure out what the fuck you did to your life.

You need some time to let the dust settle.

Poor Rachel—in the midst of all that settling dust, breast feeding and sleep deprivation—had taken her baby to a family picnic. Innocuous enough, yes, but she'd had a full-blown panic attack when her husband's aunt asked to hold the baby, then told Rachel to "go get a hot dog" and to "stop hovering."

"I didn't want a hot dog!" Rachel had sniveled. "I wanted to gauge her eyes out. I wanted my baby back."

Rachel's story hit a nerve with me because I had a similar experience with Chuck's mother at a party. Junior was three months old. We'd been nervous new parents, and so we hadn't taken him out much (i.e., ever). I knew Chuck's mom wanted to see Junior, but when I say that the woman was standing at the front door with her arms outstretched, I mean she didn't even give me a chance to get through the entryway before she grabbed him.

Then she planted herself on the couch and declared that she wasn't giving him back. Every time Chuck or I went over to retrieve him, she said no (!) and told us to relax/beat it/leave her alone. (It's true: I blogged about it.)

I ended up sitting outside on the stairs with Chuck's sister, who hugged me and told me it was okay to cry, even though I:

a) was the one taking Junior home with me and

b) had only been physically separated from him for about 30 minutes.

That conversation still strikes me as one of the kindest I've ever had. I sobbed snot on her shoulder for Pete's sake.

I told Rachel a lot of what Chuck's sister told me:

You just had a baby. That's a big deal. You love your baby. You want to hold your baby. There's nothing wrong with that. Maybe you don't want to share your baby. There's nothing wrong with that either. The person who is holding your baby will have to give him/her back eventually (I finally got Junior back from Chuck's mom when her bladder all but burst on the couch). If you don't feel up for sharing, set boundaries. Don't go out. Lock your door if you have to. Do what's right for you.

Most important, you shouldn't ever feel badly for putting your baby in the tub as soon as you get home because she reeks of your mother-in-law's/husband's aunt's rank perfume or because her forehead is covered in red lipstick/pieces of hot dog.

You didn't spend nine months caring for your belly to have it all effed up by Jean Nate and Oscar Mayer, right? 

Right.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I am woman, hear me flush

After my spider killing spree (hey, eight legs make it a spree), I got a serious case of woman-balls and decided to attack something that has been plaguing my family: the toilet seat.

Yes, our toilet seat has been a frightening place to perch these past few months. The things that hold the seat onto the toilet (they have a technical name, but that comes later) constantly come loose, and if you sit down on the seat and your butt cheeks are just a little askew, the seat slips and you fall off. (Yep, can't imagine why my mother and mother-in-law call our house a death trap.)

Even worse, every time I've asked Chuck to fix it, he's sighed like it was some major undertaking.

It was these heavy-winded sighs that have kept me from asking what the job actually entailed. He had me thinking there were multiple tools involved. A blow torch maybe? Surely spackle or lube. Perhaps a toilet troll whose favor we needed to win?

The sighs were so bad I even started apologizing before I asked him for his services.

"Honey, I hate to ask again but could you possibly—please?—fix the toilet again? My mother fell off and hit her head mid-stream. She's, um, covered in urine and crying. Pretty please?"

"Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh."

Then, yesterday morning, after Chuck went to work, Junior called to me from the bathroom to say that the seat was sliding around again.

I decided to take matters into my own hands.

"Stand aside, Junior."

I lifted up the white things behind the seat. I expected to find a labyrinth of gizmos and gadgets—or a mouse spinning on a wheel at least—but no, there were just...screws. Plain old screws.




I felt underneath the screws, just to make sure I wasn't missing something. A piece that needed to be soddered perhaps? A locker padlock? Something! There had to be something more than screws to make my handyman husband sigh so!

Nope.

Just two plain old screws.

I grabbed a....screwdriver.


Then I held the bottom of the screw while tightening the screw's head. I did this until the damn thing wouldn't move anymore.

Approximate duration of repair: 30 seconds. 

"Jump on," I told Junior. He did. "Now wiggle for me." He did that too.

The seat didn't budge.

The easy conclusion to draw here is that when we take matters into our own hands, it is quite liberating to discover we can reach a solution all by ourselves. QUITE. The not-so-easy conclusions have been running through my mind like a broken record for the last two days:

"That's it? Why the sighs? That's it? Just screws? That's it? Why the sighs? That's it? Just screws?"

Chuck, I'm calling you out on this blog. You have one day to respond. Ok, two, since tomorrow's a holiday.

(Happy 4th of July!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Brrrrng, brrrrng. Is this the husband complaint hotline?

It's 11 on Friday night. I'm sitting here trying to format 600 pages of text. It's for a book I'm laying out for a freelance job, and it's tedious work.

So tedious I broke out the bubbly.

I deserve some bubbly. Chuck's been sick, and he's been an audible mess. Why must men moan so when they're sick? It reminds me of that old tree line, except my version—the haggard housewife version—goes something like this:

"If a man lies in bed with a cold and no one is around to hear it, does he continue to make horrible, suffering sounds?"

The answer: Yes, until someone, anyone, hears it.

To get the kids away from Moaning, Sniffling, Coughing Man, I spent the day sweltering in the heat while they cooled down in the waterslides at Stay and Play (if you live in Connecticut and you haven't been, you must go. Unlike other family establishments in Connecticut that rape you financially—The Dinosaur Place comes to mind—Stay and Play is a steal at $8. Could they have taken a cue from other family establishments in Connecticut that rape you financially—again, The Dinosaur Place comes to mind—and charged parents $1,000 more for access to the waterslides? Yes, but they didn't. I heart them).

So there's the set up. Me = burning the midnight oil. Kids = lucky as hell. Husband = still lying in bed groaning.  

Lada-tippity-type-ity-la.

And then, just minutes ago, along came a spider. A BIG spider. A big black spider with a shiny body and hairy legs. It ran right up my lamp shade and hid. I promptly did what any woman would do. I ran upstairs and demanded Chuck kill it. That's what husbands are supposed to do: kill bugs that crunch and ooze when you smush them. 

(If that's not in your marriage vows, it should be. Nothing enhances a wedding ceremony like the word "ooze".)

Chuck came downstairs—kicking and sniffling—and asked me where the spider was. When I pointed it out, he half-heartedly swatted at it. Looking back, I'd have to say that I've never seen such a pathetic display of spider hunting. Of course, the thing took off in a flurry of fur and legs.

"How can I work knowing it's still out there?" I cried. "It could jump out at me at any moment."

"It's dot hair. It's godn."

"What?"

"It's godn."

"Chuck, what language are you speaking?"

"I'm duffed up! I said it's GODN!"

"It's not gone. It's watching me!"

He promised me that the spider had run along home to its family in the basement. In fact, now that he thought about it, he saw it jump from my desk into the radiator and scurry away. Mmmhmmm.

"It's godn," he told me one last time, adding a coughing fit for emphasis. He slithered back upstairs.

I sat here, staring at my desk. I knew the spider would be back. I didn't buy Chuck's Hallmark tale, nor did I trust the observations of a man who has been swigging NyQuil for two days.

I was right. It came back. With a vengeance.

But surprise, surprise, I got it.



I smushed it and it oozed and crackled and I wanted to die, but I did it. Which leaves me with this: 

"If a woman kills a spider and no one is around to hear it, does she still make a sound?"

Damn straight. I think the neighbors called 9-1-1.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Head in the clouds



"Look!" I say to Junior. We are lying in the grass. Our feet are bare. Everett, the perpetual walker, is napping and it's just the two of us. We can be blissfully sedentary. I can't remember the last time I just laid in the grass and looked up. "That looks like a flying dragon. Or maybe a plane."

"Good one!" he says. "I totally see it! What else do you see?"

I don't know what tickles me more: the fact that my son is so encouraging about my cloud interpretations or that he pretends to see everything I see. Or, maybe it's that the last time I laid in the grass with a guy (a mere 15 years ago) and pointed out cloud shapes, he was only feigning interest because he was trying to get me into bed.

Whatever. It doesn't matter. None of that matters. All that matters is that summer is here and I am lying in the grass with Junior.

Ahhhhhhhh.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

We need an impartial handyman



Chuck had to travel for business this weekend, so my mother came down to give me a hand with the kids. We're in the middle of painting the living room and before he left, Chuck half-assedly affixed the curtain rods back to the wall so we'd have a little privacy at night (the neighborhood cows are so fucking nosy).

As my mother was sitting on the couch Saturday evening, innocently thumbing through a magazine, one of the rods came crashing down, nearly decapitating her.

"You're trying to kill me!" she cried.

This being the second time in six months that a guest in my home has accused me of trying to kill her, I asked why the hell everyone thinks I'm out to off them.

I thought my mother would laugh off the question but she launched into a lengthy list of reasons why invited guests might think I am trying to kill them.

"You leave leftovers in your refrigerator for months. If I don't make a concerted effort to notice what is old and what is new, I could die at the hands of a meatball! You only use 40-watt bulbs. I can't see a damn thing! I'm old! You taped cars to the wall. In the hallway. That tent outside? Over the sandbox? One of the rods is broken. I was almost smothered while building a sandcastle. And why must you hang all your wreaths up in the stairwell going down to the basement? I lost my balance, grabbed onto the wall and almost ended up with one around my neck. I had plastic berries stuck in my hair."

I should have felt bad, but I didn't. She's going to be 70 soon. Her visits to Mulletville Lite provide her with the bit of spice and intrigue that she needs. Someone's got to keep her spy and mentally agile. What better game to give a graying brain than "What can I eat that won't kill me?"

I must admit, the image of my mother standing on the basement stairs, irate, with plastic berries in her hair delighted me. Though what was she doing in the basement? There's nothing down there but old furniture and big spiders—which leads me to my next point, which is that a guilty mind leads to paranoid accusations.

Always!

What has she been doing as she watches the children? Hmmmm? What was Chuck's mother doing as she watched the children? Calling me a hippie and feeding my kids Fruit Loops behind my back? Covering the kids' organic apple slices with Cool Whip and letting them watch Baywatch?

I should be the one hurling accusations. Instead I'm trying to figure out how to use an electric screw gun so I can put up curtain rods so no one loses an eyeball.

Damn power tools. Oh, I'll fix it all right. I'll fix it!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rub-a-Dub-Dub, mom's head is in the tub

I was kneeling down in front of the tub, giving the two boys a bath. Junior was whining. It seems he is always whining lately. I was on the verge of telling him for the umpteenth time to Knock it OFF! when I dropped the bottle of shampoo into the water.

As I was leaning down, I came face to face with Everett.

I don't know why this particular moment struck me so. I've been face to face with my 18-month-old plenty of times. Like, every five minutes. But something about the angle—about how I was leaning down and he was looming over me—made him appear larger than life.

He'd been trying to "help" me rinse Junior's hair with a cup of water. I'd been trying to explain to Junior that Everett was just trying to help. Couldn't we please just let him try to help?

As I knelt there, looking at this baby monster trying to douse me, Junior and the entire tub, I heard myself. Everett's a baby, Junior. He's learning. We have to be patient. Please don't get mad at him. Please stop whining. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

What planet was I living on? How could anyone not whine under these circumstances? I changed tactics.   

"It sucks having a younger brother sometimes, doesn't it? I mean, look at him. He's relentless. You're sitting here trying to take a bath and minding your own business and he keeps chucking water at you. You must get pretty sick of him. Sometimes even I get sick of him!"

Junior looked at me like I'd just shit the Magic Kingdom.

"You're a good kid," I told him.

And he is. And I should do a better job of remembering how much of a pain in the ass it is to have a younger sibling trounce on your world with all the piss and fire of a mini Godzilla.

I should also try separate baths from now on.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm hoping for bed head, ironically enough

I got my hair cut. The act seems so stupidly easy, doesn't it? But no, add a few children to your life and suddenly haircuts occur as frequently as say, the moon eclipses the sun. 

Because the cuts are so infrequent and because I look so disheveled in between said cuts, I have high expectations of the trip itself, and of course the damn cut. I do want to see a hairdresser who is going to massage my head during the shampoo. I don't want to see a hairdresser who is going to talk my face off. I do want to read trash magazines. I don't want to get sheared in the face because the hairdresser is yapping away to her co-worker.

And if I fall asleep at any time, I don't want to be woken up.

Even though I know what I'm looking for, it's been hard to find a hairdresser I like in Mulletville Lite or its environs. This is a rural community. Most people go to the farm for their eggs and their trim.... and their extra-marital affair. It's true: farmers are busy in this town.

Since I couldn't find a hairdresser I liked here, I drove an hour to Mystic, which is home to an aging population of rich white people. Hey, a bouffant is preferable to a mullet! Besides, it's kind of the closest thing southeastern Connecticut has to an urban hotspot.

All I wanted was a trim. My locks were past my shoulders.

"Please don't cut them off entirely," I begged the hairdresser. "My anniversary is this weekend. My husband likes my long hair."

She promised she wouldn't hack it all off. The bitch promised! But of course I left looking like the Dutch Boy. Once again. Even worse, she flat-ironed the shit out of it. It was thin. It was non-existent. I looked like the Dutch Boy in his sixties! I was a prepubescent, geriatric conundrum. 

When she saw my crestfallen face, she tried to cheer me up with free product. Usually that works. This time, however, I felt a little dirty as she fingered the container and extolled the product's virtues.


 

"I love this stuff!" she gushed. "You spray it on and scrunch or poof or whatever look you're going for..."

The whole time she spoke, all I could think was Ew, she is giving me a penis bottle. Every time I go into the bathroom it's going to gawk at me. I'm going to have nightmares about it trying to poke me. I don't want a penis bottle. What if I drop it and accidentally slip and fall on it? Will I get pregnant?

"This stuff is great! Blabbity blah blah fabulous! It's on the house! You'll love it!"

So here I am, two days away from my wedding anniversary. We're going away for the weekend. It's supposed to be romantic. Full of flair. And yet, I look like the Dutch Boy and I'm traumatized by the sight of penises.

Thank God traditional materials for your sixth anniversary are candy and iron. Sugar cubes and an iron skillet will save us. They have to.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The day for which every mother of a boy waits

I once read that the average four-year-old asks 437 questions a day.

That's nothing. Junior asks 4,370 questions a day.

He talks and asks, asks and talks. He talks when he's eating, he's asks when he's sleeping. Sometimes when he talks, I lower my head and shield my eyes. I can physically feel his words hitting my head. They're fast, they're furious; I need a superhero helmet to protect me from the battering.

Today though, the bathroom was eerily quiet as I passed by. I knew Junior was in there. He had told me as much—"I have to go to the bathroom don't let Everett touch my toys not even for a minute cause when I get out I'm gonna play with them and I don't want him touching them while I'm in the bathroom and when I get out I want a glass of water with ice cubes and I really have to poop now I can't wait another minute so please come get me if it's been a while and I'm going in now so don't let Everett touch my toys and I need privacy so don't open the door unless I ask!"—in just a few words.

I stood outside the door. Nothing. Not a sound, not a peep. I crept a little closer. I heard the faintest rustling of paper. I took a deep breath and held it. More crinkling. Yes, there was definitely some crinkling going on. Crinkling!

Could it be? Could it really be happening under my own roof?

"Junior? Are you okay in there?"

"Just a second!"

"Do you need help?"

"Nope!"

True to his words, he burst out a second later.

"What were you doing in there?" I asked.

"There was no more toilet paper so I got a new roll."

I ran into the bathroom to see if what he was saying was true...






And it was.

Praise be to the Porcelain Goddess, there was a brand new roll affixed to the holder. On.The.Holder. My four-year-old had just accomplished what my husband seems utterly incapable of. I was in shock. I was elated. Whether or not a celebratory tear welled up in my eye is between me and my toilet, but let's just say that as I kissed Junior goodnight tonight, it was extra sloppy and gooey.

I have proof that we can break the cycle. Actual proof.

I'll never look at a roll of toilet paper the same way again.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A triple ooops kind of day

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Junior will be starting kindergarten this fall. I also mentioned that I went to a Mulletville Lite Kindergarten Q&A session and that I thought some of the questions parents posed were absurd.

Questions like, "“Can I meet the bus driver before the first day of school? How do I know he/she will like my kid?" and "Can I follow the bus to school to make sure my child gets out all right and/or gets home okay?”

As I listened to the parents ask those questions, an image came to mind: one of a convoy of moms and dads tailgating a school bus, hissing "Left! Turn left!" at each other, and peering at the bus through binoculars; it made me laugh out loud, in a sad kind of way.

It also made me wonder about the message it sends to our children. What does a kindergartner's thought process sound like as he/she looks out the bus window? Why does Mommy need to follow the bus? Am I not safe? Is this separation a bad thing? Should I be worried about going to school? Yes! I should be! Get me out of here!  

The whole scenario unnerves me.

School systems employ professionals who are trained to make sure a child gets from Point A to Point B, right? The worried parents at the Q&A session struck me as paranoid—Helicopter Parents at their worst.

I said as much to a mother I met at the library yesterday. I poked fun of, and laughed about, the moronic insecurity of parents who clearly can't let go of their children. Superior? Who, me?

After I was done, she smiled tersely and said, "I'm one of those mothers." She looked at me as if to say Anything else? I didn't know what to do so I smiled back—so sheepishly you could have sheared me—and shrugged my shoulders.

Ooops.

Later that day I took the kids for a haircut. As I was waiting, I relayed my library experience to the hairdresser. The story included my bountiful judgment of neurotic parents, the library mother's response and, subsequently, my oops moment.

"It happened to me," she said. "The bus driver let my kindergartner get off at a daycare two stops before my house. It took me hours to find him. I wanted to die."

Ooooooooooops.

Still later that day, I ran into one of Junior's friends and his grandmother in the grocery store. We parked our carts by the yogurt and shot the shit for awhile. (I don't remember talking this much when I was on maternity leave. Suddenly everyone wants to talk.) I relayed the library experience and the hairdresser experience. Again, the story included my bountiful judgment of neurotic parents, the library mother's response, the hairdresser's response and, subsequently, my oops moment(s).

I stood back and waited for her to tell me that the world has gone crazy. That us parents have turned into freakish worrywarts who can't let our kids reach the end of the driveway without popping a blood vessel. I wanted her to tell me it was unnecessary. I wanted her to tell me my disbelief was justified.

Instead she said, "It happened to me. My kid was meek. She sat in the back of the bus and missed her stop. The bus driver didn't realize it until they got back to the bus yard. She was so scared she couldn't speak. It was a nightmare."

At that point I didn't think oooooooops. I thought, what the fuck? Either bus-related incidents are criminally common or I had happened upon all two incidences in one day. And if those instances really are rare, we parents have done each other an injustice in over-hyping them, much like we do when sharing our labor stories with expectant mothers.

"My doctor had to stand on my chest and pull my baby out with a chair...and that was after I had 50 epidurals."

Damn tall tales.  I bet Johnny Appleseed's mom didn't follow his bus. Course, he did leave that big ass trail of trees. Maybe we should send off our children with seed packets?

Maybe not.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

No dreaded Hellmann's butt here

I don't usually get caught up in the latest fashion trends. I'm a black, brown, navy, and dark denim kind of woman. Mainly because dark colors are more slimming, and I still haven't lost that last 10-12 pounds of pregnancy weight, and mostly because I spend a lot of time chasing children, crawling on the ground, and wiping excess food/spit/boogers on my pant legs. 

This year, however, I have been dreaming about wearing white capris. They're so cheery. So youthful. So impractical. So...unflatteringly white.

For months I've refrained from even trying them on because I worried what the white fabric would do to my ass. Would I look like I was sporting two marshmallow cushions? Would my derriere look like a U-shaped, lumpy dollop of extra thick mayonnaise?

Still, the voice persisted. Try them on. Just do it. DO IT!

So I pawned the kids off on my husband, went to a few stores, and tried on every pair of white capris I could get my hands on. And I finally found them—the perfect pair. I really, truly found them. And I want to tell you about them on the off chance that you, too, have been dreaming about wearing white capris but fear what they'll do to your caboose.

They're made by ELLE. They're just $32.99 at Kohl's. You can't tell from this picture, but they have a back pocket design that is very flattering. 


 
See? (I made Chuck take about 400 pictures of my backside before giving this one the thumb's up, by the way. He was thrilled.)



The best part is that the pants sit a little lower on the hips, so if you're stuffin a little muffin, it doesn't spill out over the top.

Great news, right? Right?

Now that I own them, the only problem is actually leaving the house in them. Every time I go to put them on, I imagine their tragic fate. Someone's dog rubs his muddy nose in my crotch. One of my children sneezes while eating a bite of pizza and turns them into a Jackson Pollock painting. I sit in a pool of purple popsicle juice.

The fear...the drama...the intrigue...

Ah fuck it, I'm going for it.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated/contracted by Hellmann's, ELLE™ or Kohl's to write this post.

Friday, June 1, 2012

She's the gift that keeps on giving

All week I waited for an angry call from my boss, demanding to know when I'd be in. Lord knows I've had my share of them over the last year. Working full-time while parenting two children under age five had made me late so often that I literally snuck into work.

My boss's secretary had perfected the insulted sigh for her.

You're late again why? Siiiiggggggghhh. Hold on, I'll put you through.

I even had the excuses ready: ear infection, flat tire, vomit fest, sprained toe, fever, dead great-grandma (it's horrible to admit, but my great-grandmother has died 10 times in the last two years; it's too good of an excuse to give up. Think about it:

1) chances are your great-grandma's last name is different than yours, so if your hyper vigilant boss goes snooping through the obituaries looking for her and can't find her you can say, "Duuuh, her last name is Weinerpeckernoodle and besides, she lives in Cedar Rapids," and

2) no one expects you to be very close to your 110-year-old great-grandma (my God, she probably looked like Yoda when she died—she probably didn't even know your name anymore!), so it's okay if you saunter into work the next day looking completely unfettered by grief. As far as fibs go, it's golden).

Of course, the call never came. Nope, instead of a brrrrring, brrrrrring I kept hearing this delightful little tune:

Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low. Ding dong the wicked witch is dead. Falalalalalalala.

And I, um, don't mean my great-granny.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I really hate those good-bye bagels

Today is an important day. First and foremost, it's Memorial Day. I'd like to thank all the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, this country. One of these days, when I finally find an American flag that's actually made in America, I will fly my flag with even more pride.

Until then I will continue to grimace at the "Made in China" label scorched on the handle.

Today is also my last day at work at Mulletville Corp.

Yes, that's right. After years of talking about it I finally did it.

I timed my exit so I wouldn't have to work my last day. I also called out sick half of last week so I'd miss any farewell parties planned in my honor. You may think me an asshole, but my departure was long overdue. I'd mentally said good-bye months ago. Eating cake (or a dreaded bon voyage bagel) alongside my co-workers would have felt like a final—and very sad—pity fuck.

I'm elated and terrified about leaving Mulletville Corp. Elated to stop trying to juggle two children under the age of five, grocery shopping, a full-time work schedule, nursery school, laundry, a husband, and pooping all at once.

Terrified to think of how we'll manage financially.

On the bright side, I landed myself a part-time job (no, not with the teeth people). I'll be doing some freelance graphic design and writing. I'll be tutoring. If all that fails to bring in enough money, I'll stay up until the wee hours trying to write the next Fifty Shades of Grey (Seventy-five Delineations of Adultery, maybe?) or I'll just breed something, like geckos.

Mmmm, geckos.

There's something I never mentioned about Mulletville Corp. Sure, there are countless posts about the crazy antics of my co-workers and the insanity of my superiors (if you feel like sifting through this blog a little you'll stumble upon them soon enough), but I never told you one of the most important memories I have of the place.

It's this: Almost 10 years ago, after my second interview with the head of the company, I knew the job was mine. I knew it. I got in my car. I imagined myself working there. And I started bawling my fucking eyes out. I knew that even though the money would be great and the benefits would be great and the vacation time would be great, I knew I'd be miserable there. There was a sickness in the air; a toxicity in the water, if you will. You could feel it.

Leaving that place in an ambulance was so fricken fitting, as were all the workplace injuries.  My body literally was throwing itself into furniture so I would get the message and quit. Though I still chuckle about the breastfeeding committee. By far that is my favorite memory. Or was it the bus riding turkey?

So much stupidity, so little time to blog about it. 

That's my big Memorial Day news. What's yours?