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.


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.


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, 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!

Make laundry fun — and punishable

I don't know why there's so much effing laundry. Yes, there are five of us, but we aren't going anywhere. Part of me feels ...