Wednesday, November 15, 2017

In defense of adoration—even in the deli line



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

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

Isn't that sweet, I thought.

"I LOVE YOU, Mommy!"

"I LOVE YOU, Mommy!"

"I JUST LOVE YOU, Mommy!"

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

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

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

Wow. Didn't see that coming.

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

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

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

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

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

Oh wait. I said that already.

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

Or am I completely naive?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

How I finally caught the babysitter stealing



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

What follows is how I finally caught the bitch.

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

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

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

Off I went.

When I came back it was gone. 

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

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

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

"You're caught," he said.

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

"I'm sorry," she started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

The babysitter stole my children's birthday money

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

More specifically, from my KIDS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My birthday money is gone!" he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And waited.

It sat there for two weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooting laughter follows. 

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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

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


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

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

The cheese does, indeed, stand alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Or I could try some of these ideas:

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

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

Yah, I think I'll do that.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

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

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


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

Just kidding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes me downright sick, I tell you. 

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

And people would rant about that too. 

You can't win.

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

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

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

It was frightening. 

The thing that saved me? My pregnant bladder. 

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

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



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Yep, that third kid is so amazingly easy going

"Cam, please pick up your cars now."

"No!"

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

"No."

"Would you like a time-out?"

"No time-out."

"Then help pick up your cars."

"Mom, w'as dat?"

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

"No pick up cahs."

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

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

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

"No gently."

"Yes, gently."

"Mom, w'as dat?"

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

"No tell. No cahs."

"Ok, time out."

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

"Great job! Keep going."

"No say gweat jaaab."

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

"Mom, w'as dat?"

"That's the garbage truck."

One more car. Then another. One by one. 

"What a good listener you are."

"No good wist'ner."

"You're not a good listener?"

"NO GOOD WIST'NER!"

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

"No done. No 'side."

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

"No all done."

Puts last car in basket.

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

"No hooray." Throws self on floor.

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

And then there are the double digits...



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

It's all very disconcerting.

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

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

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

Junior sighed and calmly turned the page.

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

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

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

The world suddenly fell away.

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

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

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



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





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

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

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

And there she is.

My gawd I love her.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Holiday Road, part I

OK, here goes.

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

Bam! 21 hours? No problem.

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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



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

Dun, dun, dun. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Mullet's Holiday Road

We did it. We upped and drove to Florida with our three kids. That's where I've been all this time--we got back last night after finishing a marathon stretch from North Carolina to Connecticut. I want to tell you all about it but right now my brain is foggy and gluey and hurts when I try to form complete sentences. I also have two weeks worth of granola bars, Fig Newtons (fiber!) and grapes (have you tried Cotton Candy grapes?) to exhume from my toddler's car seat.

Two words: Gross. Gross.

More later. I promise.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Tackling the tantrums one drink at a time

I'm fried. There's no other way to put it. If you have children, they kick your ass; not because they're horrible but because they are little people with needs, wants and endless energy and because you are old, tired and don't feel like it.

Ok fine, I'm old.

This is Junior and Everett's last week of school. Last year at this time I was a wreck, unsure of how I would balance work while keeping three kids happy enough. I say enough because I don't think it's my job as a parent to lead a non-stop happy parade. I believe boredom is good. But hey, it's summer, there have to be some popsicles and pool time.

This year I'm not such a wreck. Cam is almost two and a half, so it should be easier to travel, unless it's during nap time, in which case it will still be hellacious. I have a new, not pregnant babysitter. Chuck has three weeks off instead of five days. There are no more lunches to pack at 6:45 a.m., no more homework, spelling tests or nightly reading quotas.

And honestly, I'm thrilled to get a break from the kids' schools. The schools in Mulletville Lite expect a daunting amount of parental involvement. A steady stream of flyers came home announcing fundraisers, rallies, poetry readings, fun days, spirit days, crazy hat days, balloon twisting days and of course, everyone wants the parents to participate, but what the hell, all the events were held at 1:30 in the afternoon. Don't forget to bring a baked good!

If you didn't see the flyer announcing the event, no worries, there were 10,000,000 other ways the school communicated with you: there was Facebook (separate accounts for each school); the PTO's Facebook page (separate accounts for each school); Twitter (again, separate accounts); Twitter for separate school departments, such as the library; a weekly digital newsletter; the school system's website; emails from the teachers; a weekly printed newsletter from the teachers; and of course, good old fashioned letters sent home via the school's mascot, an old horse named One-eyed Hank.

(Ha! Just checking to see if you're still with me.)

It felt like a full-time job, and I wasn't even on the PTO. (How do they do it?)

I asked my mother if she had felt this way when I was in school. She snorted and said, "If they couldn't reach you on the phone the only other choice they had was to mail you a letter, so no."

That sounds delightful and a lot more reasonable. Somewhere along the way, from my childhood to my children's, more of EVERYTHING became preferable. But it just doesn't feel good. So that's where I'm at right now, with summer around the corner. Less is more. Less screen time. More staring at the sky time. Less involvement. More meandering. Fewer toys. More homemade creations.

Fewer tantrums would be nice, but we're not there yet. I guess the good news is that once school is out, the tantrums can take place in the comfort of our home instead of say, in an auditorium. The even better news is that I can oversee said tantrum with the aid of a cool beverage.

Frick. It always comes back to the tantrums and the vodka, doesn't it?

I'm okay with that. I have to be. For now.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I bet Chuck knows all about $%#*& magnets

Sigh.

I really wanted my teepee to look beautiful (can you hear me woefully sniffling?). The whole family did, I think. My six-year-old even told his kindergartner teacher about it—and she let him work on a special art project for it.

I can just imagine their conversation:

Everett: My mom is making a teepee. In our yard. We can't go in it.

Teacher: A teepee? Why?

Everett: I'm not sure. She mentioned vodka and needing to run away...

Teacher: Hmmm. Nothing a homemade butterfly can't fix. Grab your markers!

My plan on Saturday was to prepare the sheets, adorn the floor with pillows, and hang flowers from the top. I even dragged some old tree stumps to the front for alcoholic beverages, cheese and crackers and more flowers.



As you can see, things didn't go exactly as planned. I wrapped two sheets around the sticks and used pushpins to keep them in place, but as Chuck so snickering-ly informed me, my teepee suffered from improper construction at the top and no amount of pushpins, flowers or alcohol would fix it.

I blame the Girl Scouts. Remember, I once wrote that "the Girl Scouts failed me in my youth by making us knit Jesus crosses while the Boy Scouts learned practical, fundamental skills," and I stand by that! How else can I explain my snooty Boy Scout of a husband's smugness?

Waaaaahh.

While I am disappointed, a funny thing happened as I stood looking at the teepee. I had an internal debate, which is pretty typical for me, between my Type A side and the Other Side (I'm not sure I actually have a Type B side, so I'll just call it that) but for once, it didn't end as it usually does.

It went like this:

Type A: Put more moxie into it you ass! With enough hard work it can still be amazing.

Other Side: Look at your kids jumping on the trampoline in the sunshine. They want you to jump.

Type A: No thanks. It's not good for my bladder. We need to fix the teepee! You wanted to run away from them, remember? Not spend more time with them.

Other Side: Look at them. When did they get so big?

Type A: We constructed a structure to get away from them! Roll up your sleeves and get to it.

Other Side: Maybe some other time. Now I just want to jump.

So I jumped. Not for long, but long enough to feel the sun and tickle the kids and trip them and launch them and huck beach balls at them. And when I climbed down, I felt a sense of contentment (mixed with nausea and bladder failure, of course).

Sometimes, the stars align and my time with my kids is free of bickering and badgering and it's just good, clean fun—and I fall in love with them all over again. Somehow the Universe knows when I need a dose of that. Maybe it saw me building the teepee and knew. Or maybe it saw me buying a case of vodka. Whatever tipped it off, just watching the sheets of my teepee blow in the wind was enough. Just knowing I can escape if I want to.

Until I became a parent, I was never simultaneously so repelled by and attracted to someone as I was to my children. It's as if you embody both sides of a magnet and your kids are magnets too. Wait. Does every magnet have both sides? Maybe it's like you only have the opposing side and your kids have just opposing. No, that's not right either. Do attracting sides attract or do you need an opposing?

Curses! I bet the Boy Scouts covered magnets! I told you the fucking Girl Scouts fucked me. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A scandalous discovery the day after Mother's Day

Chuck is cheating. The slimy RAT. I was on Facebook when I saw this exchange:





There's a good reason I'm not going to strangle him. A very good reason: The Facebook account belongs to me—or rather, Helen Mullet, my angry alter ego.




Myah, sorry. I guess that's not very scandalous. 

I had to create a NEW account because my last Frogs in My Formula Facebook account was hacked by some chick, and it's really pissing me off. I tried contacting Facebook about it but—shocking—because I had registered the original account under a fictitious name and with a cartoon drawing for a profile photo, they couldn't verify it and so they locked the account.

If my cartoon version of myself ever finds the hacker I'll give her a big piece of my cartoon mind and you know I will. Just look at Helen—propositioning a married man!

I'm, um, sorry if you were looking for something more salacious than that. Chuck did send Helen Mullet a photo of himself...blowing a kiss, but it's tame, I know, and you came here looking for scandal.

Hey, I know: Maybe a drunk neighborhood dad will wander into my backyard tent this weekend. Maybe he'll be inebriated and we'll wake up to find him splayed across our air mattress buck naked!

I know, I know, improbable.

Hmmm, where can you find scandal. Where oh where is there something scandalous going on....

Oh I know. Read the news. Any news source. Left, right, balanced, objective. Really doesn't matter these days.

You're welcome (or not).

Monday, May 15, 2017

A little yellow dress...for the woods?

I went to the mall with my mother on Saturday. That might sound banal, but the most important detail is that I went without any children.

I was able to touch the clothing. To wander around stores. To not have an agenda. To not stop and shove a granola bar in anyone's mouth to keep anyone quiet. I tried clothes on—for myself. I got the most gorgeous dress at Anthropologie (for the first time in my lifetime, everything in the store was 20% off):

https://www.anthropologie.com/shop/la-habana-dress?adpos=1o1&adtype=pla&cm_mmc=Google-_-US%20-%20Shopping%20-%20Brand-_-Dresses-_-42368597&color=083&creative=114547712724&device=c&gclid=Cj0KEQjwo-XIBRCOycL7hsuI_NoBEiQAuS6HtJaj2LcgoYmsT-UifEFmECbhoR-HLZf_7M185245vRYaAiiv8P8HAQ&matchtype=&network=g&product_id=42368597&size=S&utm_campaign=US%20-%20Shopping%20-%20Brand&utm_content=42368597&utm_medium=paid_search&utm_source=Google&utm_term=Dresses


I have no idea where or when I'm going to wear it, but it is soft, swishy and flattering. If I have to invent an occasion I will.

There's more: My mother and I went to a restaurant, where I sat down and chewed my food. I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to chew and swallow without jumping up to get water or seconds for someone or to answer questions with a mouth half-full of food. It was glorious.

When I got home, it was pouring. The kids were standing by the door.

"Come on! Come on!" they yelled. "We've been waiting for you!"

There, in the backyard, was our camping tent, set up just for me for Mother's Day. They'd decorated the outside of the tent with pink pinwheels.

"We couldn't make you a teepee because it was raining," Junior said. "So we made you this."

I crawled into the tent to find this, drawn on the back of a pizza box (I especially like the phallic tree hovering over my drawn tent—a subtle reminded that I am perpetually surrounded by male parts):


The cooler next to the air mattress was stocked with vodka and cups. I hugged them—the boys I mean. Thanked them. I curled up with the three boys and we listened to the rain. It was lovely. I poured myself a cocktail and snuggled deeper under the blankets. Something was missing though. I looked around. What was it?

Aha.

"Junior? Where's your father?"

"He, uh, hurt his back putting the tent up. He's on the couch with the heating pad."

Of course he was. Although mentally Chuck was prepared to give me a weekend of relaxation, his passive aggressive body had other intentions. If you don't believe me, this post from 2008 entitled, "I've had it with his damn organs!" proves my point nicely.

But whatever.

I had a tent—and I did sit in it. We might even sleep in it this weekend. I'm not giving up on my teepee either. Our backyard could soon be an oasis of repose and seclusion, decorated with twinkling lights, flowers, floral sheets, vodka bottles and decorated pizza boxes.

The perfect locale for a pretty yellow dress.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Smother's Day update: Building the escape pod

See! I was telling the truth. I've started to "build" my teepee's structure in our yard:



If there's one thing my family knows it's that when I set out to do something, I do it. If you remember, I'm going for this:



I've been wanting a teepee for a long time—actually, I've just been wanting a structure to hide in since I became a parent. I've attempted several igloos over the years, but the roof eludes me. The igloo becomes a large outdoor icebox for beer and vodka, which suits me fine, but it's harder to drink incognito while the kids are sledding if they can see you.

Actually, it's impossible.

Back to the teepee. I've had a secret stash of wood I've been stockpiling on the side of the yard. All (**all**) I had to yesterday after work was drag the long sticks across the yard and fashion them to the tree while the kids watched.

"Mom! What are you doing?"

"What are you building?"

"Can I go in it?"

"Building a teepee. A teepee. No."

Now I just need:
  • a tarp for the teepee bottom (it's supposed to rain Sunday)
  • decorative throw pillows
  • bug spray and tweezers (to pull off ticks)
  •  a cooler and ice
  • flowers to dangle above my head while I repose with vodka and a good book
  • a pretty sheet to wrap around the sticks

I'm not going to get weird about affixing the sheet properly. I'll staple gun or hot glue gun the sheet to the wood if I have to. One condition: I am not using one of my bed sheets. A) They're all solids and I'm not doing all this work to achieve a drab effect and B) that would remind me of my bed, which would remind me of laundry and if there's one thing I am not thinking about on Smother's Day, it's goddamn laundry. 

So, off to the store I go. Right after I finish working, dropping items off at the kids' school, making dinner, cleaning up and...

Sigh. Can someone FedEx me a pretty sheet?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Just because it's made with love doesn't mean it's edible: Smother's Day is coming!

Someone moved the Spock ear. I feel cheated yet somewhat relieved. Chuck and I barely have time for bedroom breaks these days, never mind complicated intergalactic rituals. Still...

I keep having flashbacks to a bowling trip I took around this time last year. I went with a single mom friend of mine who brought her five year old and toddler; I took Junior and Everett. Cam, who had just started walking, stayed at home with Chuck.

I spent most of the time watching my friend's toddler try to stick his fingers into and around the bowling balls. He would climb the stairs when she wasn't looking and race toward the arcade. He pushed all of the buttons on the vending machines.

He even managed to make it all the way to the end of one of the alleys—to the pins!—despite the fact that we were both watching him. Constantly.

I kept thinking, This is coming. Next year at this time, when Cam is two, this is going to be me. It made me sweat. It made my heart and head hurt because I knew from experience that it meant I wouldn't sit down for a long time. Nor would I have a chance to chew my food or actually converse with friends if we had a play date.

Simply put, I knew toddlerhood and I knew it would eat me alive.

It has. There's no other way to put it. Cam is hardly the easy-breezy-because-he-has-to-be third child. Rather, our family is the china shop and he is the bull that stormed through the door. We love him—obligatory blah blah blah—but sometimes after he goes to bed, the four of us sit down and slip into a shell- shocked daze. Like, What the hell just happened?

Cam is defiant. He's rambunctious. If he wants something, he helps himself to it—this includes beautifully decorated cupcakes that were lovingly arranged in the shape of a heart on a tabletop at a wedding we just attended (I'm sorry! Again!). If he doesn't like what you're saying he holds up a hand and yells DOP! DOP! (Stop!)

And he wants ONLY ME.

This is where I'm at the week before Mother's Day: frazzled and frantic. My energy reserves are on low—oh fuck, they're on E—and to be honest, I'm a little traumatized by some of our previous Mother's Day "celebrations" (if you're interested, search "crying in car" on this blog).

But wait!

I found this picture a month ago in an old issue of Country Living magazine (the British edition) and I've been thinking, THIS is where I want to spend Mother's Day. 



Alone in a pretty teepee. In my yard.

I've come up with some conditions: The kids can wave to me from the window of the house, but other than that I don't want any company. No, wait, let me clarify: I don't want any adolescent company.

I also don't want any kid-prepared food. Just because it's made with love doesn't mean it's edible. In fact, it probably contains bodily fluids of some kind. I'll take something store-bought or restaurant-made thank you very much.

And alcohol. I'll take a pitcher of vodka, some fresh limes and a big bucket of ice.

It's perfect, right? I'm home for Mother's Day but not really. I can accept gifts and trinkets but the children can be whisked away. If I drink too much I can walk home, and I have access to running water should I want to shower away all those ticks and mosquitoes.

You think I jest.

Tomorrow I'll take pictures of the teepee I've started to build.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Forget bedroom eyes, take II. The proof's in the...thing on the dish rack?


There's been a Spock ear on the dish rack for two weeks now.

I don't know how it got there. I mean, I know I had a brainstorm last September to throw Chuck a Star Trek-themed surprise birthday party (he's been told he's part alien, remember) and that I had the idea way too close to his actual birthday to actually pull it off but that I tried anyway.

And I know that I ordered 20 Spock ears from Party City way too late for them to arrive on time but that I paid $25 in expedited shipping on the off chance that the force would be with me—oops, wrong star thing thingie—and that they'd come in time for the party.

They didn't. The party was on a Saturday. The box of Spock ears came on Monday.

Then things got busy and the box of Spock ears got pushed to the side. Eventually under something. Somehow the receipt got separated from the box and by the time I was able to remarry the two, the window had passed to return the damn ears.

"Fine," I told the kids. "You can each have two pairs. But we're saving the rest for another occasion."

That immediately earned an enthusiastic nod from Chuck, who I know was imagining us having kinky Vulcan sex.

Mums the word on that, but I will say that the Spock ear extravaganza lasted for all of five minutes—I don't mean you, Chuck!—and that soon there were lone Spock ears all over the living room.

How this one migrated to the kitchen is beyond me, but I'm leaving it there. My reasons are simple:
1) I really hope the mother ship beams me the eff up so I can get out of doing the dinner dishes
2) If I don't move the damn ear, will anyone else?
3) If Chuck really was the die-hard fan of this blog that he proclaims to be, he'd remember pony-tail- means-sex girl and he'd snatch up that ear and start sending me signals

I wonder which will happen first...

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Love bestowed and love denied: the toddler years



My husband Chuck held Junior, Everett and Cam constantly when they were babies. He fed them bottles. He slept with them on his chest all the time. (Seriously, the man logged more nap time than anyone.) He changed their diapers—sort of. He has this annoying habit of pretending to be grossed out by bad smells, so diaper time sounds like this:

"Oh God, it's—gaaaag—horrible, it's—gaaaagg, haaackkk—hand me a wipe I'm going to—gaaaag—omigod I'm going to throw—gaaaaggg, haaackkkk—up—gaaaaggg—oh, it's everywhere I'm really going to—haaaaack—vomit" 

and after listening to this overly dramatic gagging enough times I usually just grab the baby and shout, "Oh Jesus, give me the kid, I'll do it!" 

Even though Chuck was always hands-on—he was a stay-at-home dad with Junior, for Pete's sake— something tragic happened after the kids turned two. They suddenly wanted nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. If Junior caught me talking to Chuck he would scream, "Don't talk to him!"

Everett wouldn't let Chuck brush his teeth or put him to bed. Everett would stand at the top of the stairs and scream bloody murder if he even saw Chuck coming up the stairs at bedtime.

With both boys Chuck would try different tactics. He would tickle them or ignore them or try to make them laugh, but nothing worked. They would always run for me. Chuck would throw his hands up in the air and say, "I'm done" and skulk off. I was left holding a crying toddler, feeling like absolute scum.

I had hoped things might be different with Cam. Chuck never had a daddy's little girl; maybe Cam would be the one who preferred Chuck to me. I hoped and hoped and...

Myah. Nope. Nope. Triple nope. As Chuck puts it: "It's like he suddenly hates me."

Cam will actually point to Chuck and yell, "Not you!" If Chuck tries to sit next to Cam, Cam will climb off the couch and sit on the floor. It's kind of heart breaking. 

Junior and Everett are happy to come to the rescue. They jump into Chuck's arms and say, "Dad, we love you!" That makes it better, but it's still hard for Chuck. He knows that Cam is an affectionate child. Cam showers me with affection. He grabs my face and kisses my chin. He smooths my hair and coos "Muhma" as he gazes into my eyes.

I've never felt so loved by a toddler—and so guilty for it.

But I'm no newbie to this parenting gig. I know this is a phase. Just as it passed with Junior and Everett, it will pass with Cam, and soon enough Chuck will have three sons who are up his ass to go fishing and camping and video game buying.

And then where will I be? Huh? All alone, that's where.

THAT SOUNDS GLORIOUS.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I can't believe I'm pregnant AGAIN

Nine years ago, pre-children, if I'd sent a text to everyone with this image attached, my phone would have exploded (wait, were we texting nine years ago?).




Now it's met with "Wait, didn't you get fixed?"

The short answer is yes, I did get neutered. The long answer is that I'm saddened that my April Fool's joke doesn't work anymore. I have to find something new, and until I do I have to endure my children's attempts at April Fool's jokes, which include:

"MOM! Everett just threw up!" followed by Everett spewing mouthfuls of water into the toilet.

And "MOM! Cam just pooped on the floor!"

And "MOM! The cat left diarrhea on your favorite blanket!"

And "MOM! I got a detention in school because of my chronic gas!" This assertion was even accompanied by a handwritten note. Too bad I recognize Junior's handwriting.


It's nonstop chuckles.*

*April Fool's.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The truth about the stingrays in Connecticut (warning: this may be upsetting to young children)

I'm about to complain so if you're having a super fantastic Monday please come back tomorrow.

Here's the thing: Connecticut kind of sucks. The weather is questionable. Our mountains are more like pimples. Our lakes are puddles. Our state capitol is shady and on the verge of bankruptcy. Just 36% of the shoreline is publicly owned. If you don't have a rich aunt who owns beachfront property, don't try going to a public beach on a Saturday—the parking lots are often filled to capacity before noon.

Our dipshit, asshat governor Dannel Malloy is trying to tank the state. He taxes every breath we take: auto, income, property, pension, you get the idea. People are leaving the state in record numbers. His approval rating is in the toilet.

Yet he keeps on smiling. And taxing.

People from surrounding states use Connecticut highways to get to their vacation destinations, which means you can't drive on the highways during the summer because essentially they're parking lots. The state's transportation committee is talking about implementing tolls. You'd think that for once Malloy would cut state residents some slack and just charge out-of-staters but oh no, empty that wallet!

I despise the man. If my family and friends didn't live in Connecticut Chuck and I would be long gone.

Knowing all this—that we have our incomes sucked from us every day that we rot in this craptastic state—you can understand that I try to save money at every turn. Especially because I work part-time. I don't usually go to costly venues with my toddler during the week. Ditto for when we have all three kids home on the weekends.

But sometimes you need to leave the house. Sometimes it's gray and rainy and 30 degrees and your toddler is looking at you like If we don't see some new scenery I'm going to freak the eff out.




So on Friday I made plans with my mom friend to go to Mystic Aquarium. She just had a baby and is new to the whole trying-to-leave-the-house routine with an infant. We were supposed to leave from my house at 10 a.m. but instead ("diaper explosion!" and "he's hungry!" and "he's screaming!" and "he's tired!") she arrived at noon.

We got to the aquarium at 1 p.m. We needed to leave by 3 p.m. to get my older kids off the bus. The admission for adults was $34.99. Half of the aquarium's exhibits are outside (no thanks—it was 30 degrees). I'm no mathematician but the short tally is that I paid $17 an hour to watch things swim in a tank. I was never so glad to not have my two older boys with me. At $24.99 each I would have paid $85 for all of us. Not including food. Not including the 4-D theater.

Here's where I really get pissed off. Most of the staff looked like they LOATHED CHILDREN. Except for the cheery older woman who stamped my overpriced ticket, every person working (in particular the morose teenager manning the touch tank) looked as if they had just smelled a shitty diaper.

And maybe they had. But if you pay $34.99, you shouldn't have to deal with glowering staff. I can get that for free at the grocery store. No, for that kind of money I want sunshine blown up my ass from the minute I walk in the door. Yes, children yell and run and splash (it's a fucking water table, toddlers are going to splash), but if you don't enjoy children why do it? 

I have to confess that certain aspects were fun. Like when my friend followed me into the women's bathroom and our strollers got caught in between the two sets of heavy doors leading in. It was like a scene from the Human Centipede. Fun, right? Automatic doors for mothers with strollers would be so un-fun!

Should I have gone on a sunny day for an entire day? Sure. Will I do that next time? Absolutely. But as we drove home I couldn't help but think that life in Connecticut feels like this all of the time:




It seems as if the stingrays are in on it too.

For some reason that makes it hurt that much more.

(For reference, New England Aquarium costs $27 for an adult ticket; Long Island Aquarium, $28; and Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, $13).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Graphic scenes from a night table


If I had the time, I would love to write a book about night tables. Wait, wait, before you fall asleep at the thought of that (oooohhhh night tables), think about all the night tables you've had throughout your life and the shit that's been on them.

As a child, my very dusty pink AM/FM radio sat atop my night table, along with several Sweet Valley High books (remember that book that can save your marriage?). In college, there was beer, some books, more beer, and Lord knows what else. Nothing illegal, mind you, just nothing I'd want my mother to know about.

Chuck and I didn't have a night table in our first apartment. The mattress was on the floor and I pushed a book case against it so we had a spot for our glasses—we're both blind—beer and books. (Notice a theme here?)

If I thought hard I could probably remember all the tables in between "then" (carefree, childless, spontaneous, relaxed) and "now" (childful, stressed, exhausted, borderline joyful) but to me, no photo speaks more to the person I have become as a 42-year-old mother of three small children than this photo:



I took it after Christmas, when everyone had the barf bug. Gone are the beer and books. Now there's the Lysol. I believe we went through three cans. The Advil. The liquid Tylenol. My favorite, the suppositories. The cracked heel and Eucerin creams (because even though you're covered in puke you still need to moisturize). Nail polish and cuticle cream (I foolishly thought I'd be doing something for New Year's Eve that warranted nail polish—joke was on me). My night guard case (who me? Three kids and a jaw clenching affliction?). Lip balm. A lighter and two packs of matches just in case I needed to light a candle for the horizontal time Chuck and I would have in between puke sessions (I believe this is when I officially began my pilgrimage to become a Born Again Virgin).

And there, smack in the middle, is the Wonder Woman pin Chuck got me for Christmas. Junior had balked at it when I opened it. "Why does she need that?" he wanted to know. I understood that his question was more of a She isn't into superheroes like we are, Dad, so why would she want that? and not a She wants beer and books, Dad, don't you know that from sharing a night table with her for the last 20 years?

Chuck had answered Junior with a very thoughtful "Because Mom is OUR Wonder Woman, that's why"—all that sentiment and I still didn't get any sheet time!—but the kids had already moved on to gift unwrapping. And vomiting.

We took such lovely photos.

Anyway. Yes. A book of night tables. As you can see, it's practically writing itself.

Mmmm. Beer.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Skunk hair, deer, twerking, and broken glass. Aka, just another day. Aka, can't we just have sex?



What the hell? How did a month pass since my last post?

Oh right...

Chuck threw out his back. Then he had a kidney stone.

Junior came down with a cold. Then he gave the cold to Everett, who gave the cold to the babysitter, who gave the cold to Cam.  

Then, as I was carrying Cam upstairs, I tripped over a shoe box someone had left on the stairs. I fell against the railing, twisted into a sadistically unnatural position, fell into the wall and then fell on my ass (toddler safely in my arms). That wasn't actually what threw out my back. Nope, I threw out my back the next day when the dog bumped into me as I was slouched over, helping Cam get his shoes on, and I fell forward. I didn't want to fall on top of Cam so I spread my arms out, but I twerked the wrong way and face planted onto my cheek and shoulder.

Oh, and my hair! I went in for subtle highlights and came out three hours later looking like a skunk. My sweet brother said I looked like the bride of Frankenstein. It took a box of brown at home plus more brown at the salon to cover up the white streaks. Great news! I have black-ish hair, but it's all one color.

Did I mention that the babysitter, after getting a cold from Everett, told me she couldn't come back for awhile because she's newly pregnant and doesn't want to run the risk of getting sick? Hello again, care.com.

Work. There was and is so much work to do! When I wasn't plugging in the heating pad for Chuck, the humidifier for the kids, the hairdryer for myself (surely if I dry my hair enough the black-brown will lighten) or the vacuum (why the hell do the dog and cat shed so much?), I was plugging along, trying to finish all of my work.

My mother visited a bunch too. She was supposed to be my back-up sitter because of the prego babysitter but oopsie, my mother decided to move back to this dreadful state, so she had to leave early to look at houses. Which meant I was plugging away into the wee hours of the morning.

Then the snow. The mother effin snow. I ran outside to cover all the little sprouting plants in my garden with small glass vases--just to shield them--and now I have to find them under the snow before my children do. (Look for my upcoming post: Stupid shit not to put in your yard when you have three children who like to jump in the snow.)

Speaking of things I'll probably forget to do, our water filter, which has been attached to the kitchen sink faucet for five years, decided to crack open one morning, just as I was leaving for work. I forgot to tell the sitter, who was doused in water when she turned it on to get a drink. I also forgot to tell my mother, who came to relieve the sitter and who was also doused in water when she went to get a drink.

I also forgot to tell Chuck, but he was standing next to me when he was covered in exploding water. I laughed so much I had to change my clothes as well, but that's just a shitty side effect of having multiple children and forgetting to clench when you're bowled over laughing.

The filter is still on there. 

Somewhere in there the cat vomited all over the rug and the dog pooped on the floor. Somewhere in there I saw the dentist, whose stupid, perky hygienist told me I was doing a super duper job with my home care, but she could tell by my profusely bleeding gums that I am not flossing. I believe this was after my dye-job but before my babysitter woes, so I still had the wherewithal not stab the hygienist with the sharp thing she'd been scraping my gums with and not to shout I DON'T EVEN HAVE TIME TO POOP SOME DAYS NEVER MIND FLOSS.

Somewhere in there, Junior forgot he had to design a diorama for school and I found myself at Micheal's at 8:30 p.m. looking for miniature white-tailed deer. We settled on brown-tailed deer and shellacked their asses white with Whiteout. Then there were school conferences and I got to bring the deer home.

I bet they'll look cute in the garden next to all the broken glass and dead plants.

And sex. Chuck and I have been trying to get horizontal for a long time. But as you can see, a few things have gotten in the way. I thought tonight might be the night, but he just sent me this text:

So yah, I guess it's official. At 42, I'm a born again virgin. Which means my babysitter is getting laid more than I am.

Seems about right.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Packing up, moving out and moving on: When your baby isn't a baby anymore


When my sons—there's three of them—were newborns and sleeping in a bassinet in our bedroom, I kept a little plastic tub at the end of the bed. I filled it with everything I'd need when they woke up in the middle of the night: diapers, wipes, onesies, bibs, footie pajamas, pacifiers, diaper rash cream, extra nipples, gas drops. It saved me from having to search frantically for things when I was half asleep and they were fussy.

I never really emptied the tub in between kids. I just pushed it to the side (and eventually under the bed) and refilled it when I had the next kid. I know it might sound weird that it contained items from nine years ago—when Junior was a newborn—but it was a comfort thing. Like look, I don't have any more babies but I have this little tub of newborn stuff and that's kind of the same.

Further down that thought train was this: When I have time to sit and cry and reflect on the fact that I no longer have a baby in my life, I will empty it.

Then last night, my best friend let me and Chuck babysit their two month old while they went to dinner around the corner. The kid was a piece of cake, but my friend was gone from 7:30 to 11:30, and I'd forgotten how all consuming a baby can be. Cam plays by himself now. I don't have to carry him everywhere. He feeds himself. I don't have to burp him or rock him to sleep.

Simply put, I have a bit of freedom in my life again. More of me.

This baby...he wore me out. Chuck too. After my friend picked up her baby and said good-bye, I felt wonderful. I grabbed Chuck and said, "Thank you for agreeing to have a third child, but I officially know that I am done with babies. I don't have baby fever. I don't long for a baby. I am ready to move on with my life."

I went upstairs to grab the heating pad from the closet for my shoulder—holding a baby for four hours hurts—and that's when I saw it: the little plastic newborn tub. It was sitting there on the shelf. For the first time in nine years it was empty. 

I ran downstairs with it. "Where did everything in it go?" I asked Chuck.

He told me that barf pans were getting scarce when we all had the puke bug and that he had dumped the contents of my little baby tub onto the floor in a moment of barf pan desperation and let someone yack into it.

I waited for the pang of sadness. I had had ceremonious plans for that tub! I had planned to sit down and go through all the leftover newborn items and have a good cry. That act was supposed to be my official good-bye to babyhood.

But the truth is that every day that Cam, Everett and Junior have grown is a step in the good-bye to babyhood direction. And the good-bye isn't just a one scene act. It's a process—one I had unknowingly started a long time ago.

I remembered what I had said to Chuck just minutes before.

I don't long for a baby.

I went upstairs and put the empty tub back into the closet. I stared at its...emptiness. The Universe had confirmed what I knew in my heart—I am ready to move on with my life—and even better, the Universe had let my husband do the dirty work of emptying it.

I went back downstairs and lay down next to Chuck. We were asleep in five minutes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Yes! This is EXACTLY what it's like

If you're thinking of having a baby, or if you already have children and you think you may want more, I want you to click on the image below and watch the video.

A friend forwarded the link a few days ago with the message "So cute!" but when I watched the video all I saw were squirming toddlers. And then suddenly I was everywhere I'd ever been trying to hold my very mobile toddler, Cam (who now weighs almost 30 pounds). My older son's karate class; the mall; the grocery store; Mystic Aquarium; the driveway.

Just watch it—and remember: Your baby will turn into this. Without the fur or snout. Obviously. And you won't be wearing a mask or gloves. Unless that's your thing. Because I don't judge. But I do offer free birth control...in the form of baby pandas.

Just watch it!


https://www.reddit.com/r/gifs/comments/5s2fk8/trying_to_take_a_picture_with_23_baby_pandas/?ref=share&ref_source=link

Friday, January 27, 2017

Can love trump vomit?

Minutes after I wrote my last post in early January, Chuck ran upstairs and said he felt sick. He covered his mouth with his hand—for dramatic effect of course—and sprinted to the bathroom.

One man down. (Loudly and with much fanfare, I might add).

Minutes after that, toddler Cam raced into the room and started doing a weird hiccup + half burp thing. I knew from experience that it meant one thing: toddler spew.

Second man down.

Two days later, Junior came home from school and said he wasn't feeling right. He'd already had the bug (around the time of my birthday), so I wasn't too concerned. Then he dashed to the bathroom and yep, you guessed it, yacked.

Third man down. 

One day later, Everett got off the bus looking positively green. He'd already had the bug (on my birthday), so I didn't pay much attention to it. Then he grabbed the puke pan from Junior and proceeded to vomit.

Fourth man down.

That left me, the cheese, standing alone. I ran to the bathroom (what else was there to do?) and started jogging in place, humming the theme song to Rocky. I punched the air. I bleached the toilet. I did jumping jacks. I Lysoled the cat.

"You can do this! This bug won't take you down!" I shouted.

I called Chuck and boldly announced that "I am the one person who has not gotten this bug! I am woman!"

I had earned my bragging rights. I've had three children vomit in my bed on several different occasions. They've breathed on me. Whimpered onto my shoulder. I've laundered their soiled clothing. Fed them Jello through straws. And so on. And so on.

And then on inauguration day, I felt decidedly queasy. I texted Chuck an SOS while he was at work. Junior, Everett and Cam looked on (yes, everyone was home from school) as I finally got intimate with the puke pan I had so meticulously been cleaning for the last six days.

On television, the inauguration made for an interesting backdrop to my yack attack.

"Mom!" Junior and Everett cried. "Are you okay?"

I looked up over the brim of the pan and watched Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (see also Anita Hill) swear Mike Pence into office as Bill Clinton (see also Monica Lewinsky and/or impeachment) stood rows away smiling like a Cheshire cat. It was almost time for Donald Trump (see also lewd comments) to descend into the stands. 

No, I definitely wasn't okay.

My three sons gathered around me. 

"Get her ice!" Junior shouted to Everett. 

"Yes! And she needs a popsicle!" Cam raced around their gangly legs, thrilled to be part of the action. When he saw his brothers pull the blanket over my feet, he threw me his stuffed bear.

"We'll get you water!" Junior and Everett shouted as they went to the kitchen. "We'll take care of you now."

And they did. With kindness, thoughtfulness and tenderness.

I may have been deathly sick but what I realized is that these little men have more class and dignity than some of our fearless leaders. It makes me proud. It makes me want to scream again that I'm doing my part. It makes me believe in all the reasons I ever had for wanting to become a mother. 

Most of all it makes me sad and embarrassed. We have every damn right to demand better from them...and from ourselves. But hey, silver lining: No one's been sick in a week. Small victories, right? 

I'll take them.

In defense of adoration—even in the deli line

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