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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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Thank you Mr. Heckenspeck for infecting the damn town



The month of December was challenging, which is why I've been MIA.

Actually, MIA sounds way too exciting for where I've been. MIA makes it sound as if someone kidnapped me and took me to a secluded island and made me change my name and live a childless life of pina coladas, tanned cabana boys and afternoon naps when really, I've been living a childful life of kid puke, snotty noses and no naps because EVERYONE in the house has been sick.

See, the town of Mulletville Lite is on the small side so when you hear someone coughing at the grocery store, you know it's just a matter of time before everyone in the town gets it. And that's what happened: I saw Mr. Heckenspeck hacking up a lung by the frozen meats on Dec. 1 and sure enough, Junior soon had it. Next was my husband Chuck. Then our middle child, Everett. Then my poor mother. Then toddler Cam. 

Cam got it the worst. By the time he caught the bug, we were three weeks into December and I had accepted the fact that I wouldn't leave the house for the month, so I had stopped performing those basic and normal human tasks of, say, getting dressed and combing my hair. I was actually entering that sticky area known as crazy-sick-but-not-sick mom, where I knew I looked off but was coming to embrace it and maybe even enjoy it.

(Insert evil cackle.) 

Along with Cam's cough came a fever and stomach bug. He was a trooper of a puker, but I'd forgotten the very terrible part of puking toddlerhood, which is that the kid wants to be held as he or she pukes and so you end up getting slimed.

So that's where I was the Wednesday afternoon before Christmas: Standing in the living room in my rattiest pajamas (I'd run out of decent clean ones) holding Cam as he puked down the front of both of us. Hair clipped up in a rat's nest/beehive thing. Holey socks. No bra. Dark circles. Etc. Etc.

Over the sound of Cam's wails I heard the bus.

The town's policy is that a bus driver won't let your kid off without seeing some form of parental life, so I opened the front door, stuck out my arm and waved. Of course--of course--as Everett was crossing the street he slid on a patch of ice, face planted in the road and started screaming.

I stuck my head out the door and called. "Are you okay? Can you get up?"

"Screeeeaaaammmm. Screeeaaammmmm."

Junior, who's on the same bus, stood over Everett like a scientist who had just discovered a new, digusting bug. He yelled to me, "Mom, you should come out here. I think he's unconscious."

"Screeeeaaaammmm. Screeeaaammmmm." Was it Cam or Everrett? I couldn't even tell.

"He's not unconscious! He just needs help getting up!" I called. "Help him!"

The busdriver sat there watching. The kids on the bus sat there watching. I know I looked like an asshole--my kid was lying in the road crying--but I was covered in a screaming toddler and vomit. I was shoeless. Braless. I was trying to maintain a modicum of decorum but that's the hardest part of parenting, isn't it? We find ourselves grasping for the right way to be in the most uncomfortable and challenging scenarios. We find ourselves looking like an asshole when really, we've been living in a hovel of illness and puke for way too long and don't even recognize ourselves in the mirror, and what we need instead of judgment is a kind word or two.

I waved for the bus to leave but like a good bus driver she sat there.  

"Junior!" I shouted. "Pick up your brother! Please!"

Junior must have heard the desperation in my voice because he leaned down, grabbed Everett by the arm and gently brought him to his feet. Everett was whimpering but unscathed. They made their way to the front door and came inside. When the bus finally drove away I put Cam down and assessed the situation:

Pukey kid
Pukey parent
Pukey rug
Crying kindergartner
Small man-child of a fourth grader why wanted to know why I didn't come outside

"Look at me," I said to them. "I'm doing the best that I can." Hearing those words made it worse for a minute: I was doing the best I could but it still wasn't good enough. There was still more that was needed of me. I went into the bathroom and started to cry. Then I laughed. Then I cried. Then I laughed again.

It's all okay though. I'm doing the best that I can. And for 2017 that will be just fine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When your neighbor makes you the worst smelling turkey ever

Last week I changed my blog header to the snowy frog scene and bam, it snowed.

Curious, ey?

If you're like me, you're spending this week in a pre-Thanksgiving frenzy. I don't cook, but Chuck and I do go away with the kids, which means packing and wrangling, driving and bickering.

For the last five years we've shared a timeshare condo on the ocean with my parents and Chuck's. It's right in Connecticut, so the drive isn't more than an hour and I swear I'm not complaining—ocean view for the holidays? Yes, please—but the condo is one story so we sleep in close proximity (all 10 of us). We have snorers. We have sleep talkers.

We have a toddler.

Toddlers have the propensity for destroying rooms, meals, and lives.

Think I'm being dramatic? I bet you $100,000,000 you've never had a toddler.

I'm hoping this year will be less stressful than last. Cam had just started crawling and the condo we were staying in was dressed in industrial style, uber modernistic furniture. Steel legs on chairs, dagger edges to the coffee tables, pointy sides to the beds, you get the idea. Add a few Matchbox cars to the floor and suddenly the place is a rollerskating arena of death, especially for senior-aged family members who've had a few too many cocktails.

Oops! Did Grammie just plummet face-first into the steel bolts of the fireplace?

Cam slept well in the Pack 'N Play the first night. (Why the hell do they call it that anyway? It should be called the Please Sleep in Me. Please.) Lulled into a false sense of well-being by Cam's feat, Chuck and I drank and ate way too much at Thanksgiving dinner the second night* and of course, Cam woke up screaming every 30 minutes after we put him to bed.

Around 11 p.m. we decided we couldn't spend the whole night like that. Despite the 15 fans we'd brought for white noise no one was getting any shut-eye. Chuck and I packed up Cam and all of our stuff and started for home. On the way, I called our next door neighbors who were dog-sitting and let them know we'd be home.

"We let her sleep at our house and we know you've missed her," they said, "so we'll bring her back home."

I told them that wasn't necessary. We were straddled with a baby who wouldn't stop screaming. We'd be okay without the dog, but they insisted.

An hour later we pulled into the driveway and found our neighbor Bob standing in our driveway, holding our dog. We stepped out of the car with a still screaming Cam and smelled...

...skunk.

"I'm sorry," Bob said. "When I opened my door your damn dog ran into your yard after a skunk. I chased her into the woods. We both got sprayed. I opened your door to see if I could find a towel and she ran inside. So yeh, it reeks!"

Bob had been drinking. Or he was high on skunk fumes. It was hard to tell. If you've never smelled skunk spray right after it happens, it has a sweet onion pungency to it that makes your throat burn and your eyes water. When we went inside it was even worse—but I had to put our screaming monster-child to bed.

"I'll open the windows and crank the heat," Chuck said, "if you deal with the kid." He winced—from the skunk or our child, I didn't know.

Bob followed us inside and apologized. Chuck put the dog on our screened-in porch and started to wipe her down. Thankfully she'd only been sprayed on her snout. I put Cam in his crib. He immediately stopped crying.

"Little fucker," I said as I shut his door. The upstairs was safe from the smell but it was brutal downstairs, where Bob had parked himself on the couch. He was examining his shoes.

"The thing is," he told me, "when I ran out the door to bring your dog home I grabbed the first pair of shoes I found. These aren't mine, and they stink. I'm scared to go home. I think they belong to my uncle."

Chuck returned from the porch. "I got most of it. She's fine."

"I feel terrible," Bob said. He rubbed his shoes.

"It's fine!" I lied. "We'll probably just go to bed now. The upstairs isn't bad."

"Let's get the air moving. Where are the fans?" Chuck asked. "Oh right, they're all at the condo."

Bob wasn't moving. "Let's just go to bed," I urged Chuck.

"Right!" Bob said, standing up.

"No," said Chuck. "I need a drink."

"Yes!" Bob said.

And that is how Thanksgiving ended. With watery eyes and burning throats, we tied one on with Bob. Eventually he got over his shoe worries. Eventually Chuck and I went to bed. And the best part—the part I am most thankful for—is that Cam slept until 9 a.m.

In EPT (Exhausted Parent Time) that's fucking noon. 

Happy holidays to you and your family. Like myself, I hope you have a skunkless, toddlerless time!

For more holiday merriment, check out these Thanksgiving posts from years past:

I have no idea what day it is. Plus, quit bitching about your gift cards 

Happy Thanksgiving, Buttfart Face! 

 • If you were in line tonight at a liquor store, I am thankful for you
 
Anyone wanna trade grannies?

Because a frozen turkey is riding shotgun, that's why  

Is that a drumstick in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

* Slight exaggeration for dramatic effect. In other words: We were okay to drive. I don't take drinking and driving lightly.

Monday, October 24, 2016

I wonder if all those years of karate will actually pay off

When you're a parent (heck, even before you actually become a parent), you live in a constant state of wonder:

I wonder how the hell I'm going to get this baby out of me.

I wonder when he will sleep for longer than an hour.

I wonder when he'll stop being so fussy.

I wonder if my mother will always criticize my parenting.

Etc.

Etc.

(The joys of parenting!)

Most of the time, you wonder about the firsts: first tooth, first step, first solid food. They're exciting, yes, but there are a whole slew of firsts that never make the baby book.

For me, I couldn't help but marvel at this bodily first with Junior. Also, the first time I had food poisoning and had to tend to two children. And the first time my kid said a bad word, even though it wasn't intentional. So many exciting firsts.

Just last night, when I was home alone with the three boys and Chuck was still at work, this first happened:

We were all upstairs when we heard a strange noise from the kitchen. Junior—who always has been my code-red child, the one who screams "RUN" and then totally books off, the one who shouts "Call 9-1-1!" even though it's not really a crisis—turned to me calmly and said, "Stay here, Mom." As he went downstairs, he put his arms into his karate stance. He came back a few seconds later and said, "All clear. It was the cat."

It all happened so fast, and yet so slowly. I stood there for a moment and stared at him. At nine, he's a solid guy. I can wear his shoes. I mistake his shirts for Chuck's in the laundry. He's as tall as my shoulders and yet, he's been my Junior, my first, for so many years I didn't recognize the "stay here, Mom" voice or the calm young man who confidently stepped down the stairs.

He saw me watching him and asked what was up. I didn't tell him what I was thinking. I ruffled his hair and told him to brush his teeth. That's the thing about children: They're so much more than that first tooth. They keep changing and surprising you and some days, you find yourself wondering who the heck this new little person is.

See? I told you it was all about the wondering.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cranky ass Tuesday. Sorry, Parents magazine. But hey you? You're awesome

I'm going to start this post off in an unruffled way by saying—calmly—that I am a lover of magazines. If I had to assign a level of love to my well, love, I'd say I'm borderline freaky (yes, flasher at the bus stop) about them.

Every once in awhile I treat myself to Bella Grace—which is a beautifully designed, stunning magazine full of gorgeous photos—and the usual smattering of homey-cozy magazines, but I don't have 88 billion subscriptions.

If I had 88 billion subscriptions, like I'd really want to have, my husband Chuck would leave me. Because I don't read a magazine and get rid of it. I keep it forever.

FOREVER.

Seriously, we trip over small stacks of magazines in our home all the time. Surprisingly, no one gets upset. Probably because for every magazine my son trips over, I trip over a train for him. The other son? Legos. Chuck? AV cords and cables. I guess you could say we are a home of happy trippers.

(With achy feet and bruises.)

Anyway. Because I love magazines, I usually grab the free copy of Parents magazine from the pediatrician's office. I want to like the magazine, I really do. Before I even had kids I would stare at the magazine cover at the grocery store check-out and think, Someday I'll buy this. But no, even though they ditched that absurd column, I still have anger issues with the publication.

In fact, just the other day I raced into the bathroom, where Chuck was trying to poop in peace, and shouted, "WHO MAKES LUNCHES LIKE THIS FOR THEIR KIDS?" I shook the page in front of him:


(He's so sweet. He actually agreed with me before asking me to leave him alone.) 

That's a photo from Parents' September 2016 issue, called "Simply your lunch strategy." Simplify, ey? By hollowing out a few small tomatoes and stuffing them with chopped veggies? As if. The tomatoes are for Wednesday's suggested lunch. The next week's menu calls for Cobb Salad and homemade egg drop soup.

What the fuck? I ate half a granola bar that was stuck to my kid's shirt yesterday for lunch because, with three children and three different jobs, I don't have time to breathe—never mind stuff small tomatoes so my well-fed, coddled children can stick up their noses at them in the school cafeteria. And egg drop soup? Sure, I'll make it. Then I'll feed it to the garbage disposal, which is the best eater in my house when I try to introduce "new and healthy" dishes to my children.

I know what they'll eat, and I make it. That's where I'm at.

The picture below pisses me off too.



I know I'm projecting, but that woman looks miserable. She can't even keep her eyes open! She's holding that heavy ass toddler. The kid next to her is sitting on the counter, which, in this age of helicopter/velcro parenting is a big safety no-no (even though he's probably eight). She probably has had to pee since noon but can't catch a bathroom break. And she's being asked to "be silly" by wearing a fake mustache.

The poor woman probably has 30 loads of laundry to sort, tubs to scrub, a marketing campaign to finish—oh, and small tomatoes to stuff for lunch (!!) and yet, we want more of her.

We want her to laugh and play and be silly so she can "Spread the love."

She probably doesn't have enough energy to spread her butter on her own toast!

I've had it. When is enough enough? When have we crafted, given, prepped, smiled, encouraged, fed, bathed and clothed them enough? When did this sacrifice-everything-for-children-movement start? When did peanut butter and jelly, an apple and carton of milk (all organic, of course) stop being enough? Why must we origami their miniature vegetables too?

More importantly, if I'm not eating well because I'm too busy making sure they're eating well, when did that become okay and/or expected? How about an article about a mother (or father) who makes herself a delicious omelette for breakfast, then sits down and eats it—this is a big deal if you have a toddler—and then chucks cereal and milk in a bowl for her kids after she's done? Icing on the cake: She feels full, content and not at all guilty.

Right?

I'm not all piss and vinegar today. I promise. Even though I'm never reading Parents magazine again, I want to commend them on their article (also in the September issue) on balancing work and life, because it had this line:




If you're reading this post and you also want to hug the woman wearing the fake mustache because you give until you bleed, I want you to write down this line and tape it to your fridge. You don't even have to be American. You can be from outer space for all I care. Just know that you should be basking.

BUT NOT WHILE WEARING A FAKE MUSTACHE.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Yes, you can bring your toddler to the woods, but Malloy will probably tax him



I'm sorry I was gone for so long. Summer disappeared in a blink. There was nothing lazy about it, which makes me a little sad, but we did manage to log many hours outside. Except for the few weeks in August when Connecticut turned into a rainforest of humidity, heat and grossness. If there was ever a time I thought of taking the scissors to my hair and chopping it all off, that would have been it.

At 19 months, our third child, Cam, is more work than I remember his older brothers being. He scales walls, rides the dog, leaps off couches and levels rooms in two seconds flat. He's hot tempered and impatient. I've picked him up and carried him (screaming) out of places more in the last month than I ever did with either of his brothers...combined. I've never felt more of a "geriatric mother" than now.

The toddler years are exhausting.

Of course, there's a silver lining. Because he's my third child, I know this won't last forever. I know I need to take a lot of deep breaths and schedule time for myself. I know I need to walk away if I get into the red zone with my patience. I know I need to stock the cabinet with vodka. I also don't care if he doesn't eat all of his vegetables.

The best part is I could care less what people think. I wish I'd know that with my first. I would have saved myself a lot of unnecessary stress.

Speaking of stress, the picture above was taken while on a family hike. While I stood off to the side and soaked my toes, Chuck showed Junior and Everett how to skip stones. Cam sat next to me in a shallow pool and threw rocks. He was ecstatic.

It sounds idyllic, but we'd bickered in the car on the drive to the river. Chuck didn't think we should take Cam to the river. Everett had wanted to bring his Nerf gun. Junior didn't feel like hiking. I wanted us all to get some fresh air as a family. Etc., etc.

As it happens though, everything fell into place once we got into the woods. The sounds of traffic grew more faint. Fishermen scattered when they heard us approaching. The kids stopped bickering and instead noticed the leaves changing.

That's why I took that picture. Not for stupid Facebook or social media. But for myself. So I could remember that there are moments of peace and harmony. That we should spend time together as a family. That even if we still live in this ugly, overpriced state, we can still find tranquil places of beauty. And yes, that if I find a wading hole far enough into the woods, no one will hear my toddler screaming when it's time to go.

Not that I'd care anyway. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Off the clock

I'm so full of it.

Right after I wrote my last post about children clutter and how someday when it's all gone I'll "probably hate the hell out of it" I went nuts clearing off every tabletop in the house. I donated or threw away toys. I put things in their rightful place. I dusted.

It's wonderful.

So that's where I've been. Working, tidying up, sneaking in trips to the park and splash pads. Letting the kids stay up late and eat ice cream. 

And now that it's August 1 and school is only weeks away, I'm going to be away more. From the computer, I mean. I'm glued to it way too much for work and now that middle-age is officially settling in, I can't ask my eyes to squint any more than they have to.

So enjoy the rest of your summer and I'll see you in September.

Monday, July 11, 2016

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




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

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

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

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

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

Metaphor who?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

(Still) married with children

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

Ahem.

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

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

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



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


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

With a skunk.

Love that ghostly wit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

And on Sunday night in the driveway...


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

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

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

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

Junior motioned for me to roll down the window.

"What is it?" I groaned.

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

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

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

"And...?"

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

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

"Yah, Junior. We need to hustle."

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

He kissed my cheek and ran back into the house.

Chuck and I sat there.

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

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

We left for dinner.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Respect isn't just a lesson for our sons

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you?

Monday, May 23, 2016

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

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

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

Me: You sleep in. You're exhausted.

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

Me: Well, if you insist.

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

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

We both got out of bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junior: Did Dad just pass out on the floor?

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

You get the idea.

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

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

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


And you can't even see his face.

We drove home.

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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



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

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

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

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

And so on.

She stopped at noon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes! The "like" button means all that.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pre-gaming Mother's Day

Sleep regression. I had forgotten all about it.

My father calls it a state of temporary imbalance.

I call it living torture.

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

HOURS.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A sappy but somewhat urgent post about open fields



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

Advil? Yes, please. 

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

Repeat after me: Toddlers are fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow down! 

Not so fast!

Watch out for your friend!

Don't run too far!

Don't get too dizzy!

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

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

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

Delicious, worry-less freedom. 

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

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

I jest. Kind of.

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

But I can't do it anymore.

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

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



Dear Hammock,

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

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

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

Gum.

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

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

At least we have that.

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

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

Hours.

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

Just like me and my bed.

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

Oh shut up, Chuck.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Quick. Is there a sale on razors somewhere?

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

I love me some bed.

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

Barring turbulence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He went back to sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

Strangely, no one was hungry anymore.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

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



My younger brother Ted is engaged.

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

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

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

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

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

She looks lost and I don't blame her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congrats, you crazy kids!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Is it too soon to be sick of egg salad?


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

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

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

Children aren't that dim-witted.

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

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

"Huh?" he said.

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

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

Monday, March 21, 2016

Parenting is just the postponement of the inevitable

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

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

Naked.

With his hair on fire.

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

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

And why is that? Because...

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

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

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

There is no rest.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When did feeling free become a dirty little secret?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had a flashback. A beautiful, delicious flashback.

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

It was fucking good fun.

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

I made a decision.

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

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

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

"We can't!" they both yelled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piece by piece.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Divine celery spectacle

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

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

Watching him eat is painful.

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

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

Giggles.

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

More giggles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junior got me some tissues.

"Blow!" he told me.

"It burns!"

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

"It's stuck!"

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting for Chuck.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

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

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

People! Lights! Sound!

I hate when that happens.

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

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

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

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

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

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




I just have to remember to take off the headband.

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

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

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Confirmed: It's a man-gene. Shall we march?

I asked Everett, my 5-year-old, to put his gloves back in the glove holder. This is what he did:



So close, right? And yet, so far away. It reminded me of this (from a post in 2010, appropriately entitled, "Put your pants in the godamned basket"):


Those are my husband's jeans. Apparently tossing his pants just a mere inch farther was too much effort.

Truth be told, I've loved every minute of this parenting journey I'm on with my boys. I've loved the glimpses it's provided me into the male psyche. I love that I know more about the male species than I ever intended to. Boys are more sensitive than I ever knew, and more caring and compassionate than we ever give them credit for. And to all the clothing companies that design clothing for boys, boys don't only care about footballs, skateboards, cars and lizards (if at all, hello). Boys like graphic novels, paintbrushes, mud and potty talk, thank you very much.

They also loves their moms. Fiercely.

But this. This male gene for almost-in-the-basket or almost-in-the-glove-holder needs to be discussed more. There needs to be some kind of psychological summit to discuss its ramifications because, if you couldn't already guess, there are continents of women who are bending over more than they have to and putting things where they belong more than they have to. And all that bending and tidying is robbing us ladies of precious time, time we could be spending doing more productive things.

Things like, oh, I don't know, fighting world hunger or negotiating peace treaties. Or making yogurt! I mean, that's what I do when I have some down time.

For those of you who would like to respectfully disagree with this post, I give you this photo, texted to me just days ago by my bestest friend. Those are her boyfriend's pants-again, mere inches from the hamper. She wrote this:

Why can't he get it into the basket? Whhhhhhyyyyyy?


Why indeed, gentlemen. Why indeed.

Have an evidenciary photo you'd like share? Send it my way. The only way we're going to get through this is together. I mean, I'll organize a march if I have to.

As soon as I get done picking this bathrobe up off the floor and putting it in the....hamper.



Sigh.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

When your child's first word is "#$(*^#&%@#*&@*()#!^*@" because you've lost all of your brain cells

I went grocery shopping today. Yes, clap for me, I know you're happy.

My two older boys were on a playdate with Chuck, so it was just me, Cam and his behemoth car carrier. It was cold out and I was feeling lazy so I left him in his carrier and plopped him right into the shopping cart.

I only needed a few items and I had coupons—yes, coupons!—but we all know how that goes:

Crap, I need granola bars.
Oops, coffee too.
And dammit, eggs.

By the time I got to the checkout, Cam was surrounded by a teetering tower of groceries.

I chucked everything onto the belt and reached for my coupons.

My pockets were empty. I had left the stupid coupons in the car. Even worse, my store card wasn't working so I wasn't getting any of my precious Bonus Bucks.

"Just take your receipt and coupons to the service desk," the perky clerk told me. "They'll take care of you."

The bagger stood there with the bags. "What do you want me to do?" he asked, nodding at Cam, who was occupying all the room in the shopping cart.

"Heck if I know," I joked. He didn't laugh.

I swung the 50 bags over my shoulders, like the shameless packmule I've become, then pushed Cam and the cart out to the car and unloaded the groceries. I grabbed the coupons and pushed Cam and the cart to the service desk.

"Can you honor these coupons?" I asked the clerk.

"Sure, I just need the receipt," he said.

I reached into my pocket. Then the other. Both empty. I remembered the last thing the clerk had said to me: "Do you want your receipt in the bag?"

"I'll be right back," I told the clerk.

"#$(*^#&%@#*&@*()#!^*@"

I pushed Cam and the cart out to the car and opened the trunk. I grabbed the receipt from the bag and pushed Cam and the cart to the service desk.

"I have the receipt," I told the clerk. "And here are the—"

I reached into my pocket. Then the other. Both empty.

"Omigod, I'll be right back."

"#$(*^#&%@#*&@*()#!^*@"

I pushed Cam and the cart out to the car and opened the trunk. The coupons were there, lying on top of a loaf of bread. I grabbed the coupons and said aloud, "I have the coupons. I have the receipt." I pushed Cam and the cart to the service desk. I was sweating like a pig.

"Here are the coupons and the receipt." I said proudly. "I also need my Bonus Bucks."

"What's your phone number?"

"It's 860-xxx-xxxx."

"I don't have an account for that number. Last name?"

"Mullet. M-U-L-L-E-T."

"Nope, nothing."

"Can you try my husband's number? It's 860-xxx-xxxx."

"There's an account but the name isn't Mullet."

"Is it Lucky? Chuck Lucky? That's my husband! I didn't change my last name when I got married."

He didn't look up. "We'll mail you new cards."

"Thank you."

I pushed Cam and the cart out to the car.

"I don't #$(*^#&%@#*&@*()#!^*ing believe it," I told Cam. "All of that." I ripped off my winter coat, wiped the steam from my glasses and got into the car. Then I looked down at my receipt.



 

I burst out laughing. Hysterically. Loud and side-splitting, like a crazy woman. 

"#$(*^#&%@#*&@*()#!^*@"

I laughed until tears streamed down my face. Then, because I have had three children, I went home and changed my pants.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

I have no idea what day it is. Plus, quit bitching about your gift cards

First, there was Thanksgiving. I think I ate something at some point but with three children and family in town, I can't actually be sure. I do know that my mother stole dinner rolls from the restaurant we were at and that she shoved them into Cam's diaper bag because I found them wedged into a side pocket—and I ate one the next morning for breakfast.

Then, Christmas. Everett choked on a popcorn ball, and my brother Ted gave him the Heimlich. I cleaned up the vomit; he went back to eating. Ho, ho, ho! I tried to give my mother her gift:



Isn't the wreathe beautiful? My mother—who is impossible to buy for because she already owns everything that's pretty in the world—fell in love with it at an antiques store nearby, but there was one catch: I had to buy the door it was hanging on too. Ask me how much fun it was to teeter through the antiques store, Everett in tow, trying to get a door out the...door. Now ask me how long this door will sit in my living room because my mother drives a compact car and lives three hours away.

Rather, ask Chuck. He's ready to set it on fire.

Then, Everett's birthday. He turned five. My God, five. We had a small party for him at our house—kids, watch out for that door!—with friends from school. They raced around the living room, playing hot potato with balloons. We had a pinata. Pizza. Cupcakes. They left. I popped two Advil and went to bed at 4 p.m.

Then, New Year's. We put Cam to bed at 8 p.m. and sat down with a bowl of popcorn—Everett, please chew this time!—to watch the celebration in Times Square. Big mistake. BIG mistake. We jockeyed between ABC and NBC. We weren't safe from the smut, even on CNN (in case you missed it, Kathy Griffin disrobed). D'oh! Jenny McCarthy was "turned on" by her co-host at 8:15 p.m. Why waste time? Not like kids are watching.

After a few minutes of watching some musical performances, Junior wanted to know why women "always sing and dance in bikinis, but not men."

"Because women don't believe enough in their talent and capabilities to not sell their bodies."

"Oh."

"Please marry someone who keeps her clothes on," I begged my boys.

I fell asleep at 10 p.m. Chuck woke me up at 12:15 a.m. and lovingly wiped away the drool. Oh, shut up—everyone drools.

And now, my birthday. Number 41. Quite honestly, I don't even care at this point. I'm dying to get back into my routine of work and school so the days can stop seeming like one giant blob of naps and breakfast at noon and pajamas at 3 p.m. and "where's the dog?" and eating cheesecake for lunch and stepping on Paw Patrol figurines in the shower. I feel like an ass, bemoaning the fact that there's yet one more thing to celebrate, but I don't even think I can get drunk at this point.

Guess what though? Because I love vodka and because Chuck got me this kick ass shot glass—"For you," he told me affectionately, "my intoxicated Wonder Woman"—I will rally.



And then I will collapse. But I won't have dishpan hands. Not me, not ever.*

*I will, however, probably still have a door with a wreathe on it in my living room. And you bitch about gift cards—hah!