Saturday, December 8, 2018

Truth be told, I'd rather be Rudolph than Chocolate Chip

Well, well, well, here we are again. A mere eight years ago I wrote this:

I left work early yesterday. I was walking around like a hunchback because of terrible stomach pains. Then came the fever and chills. I was green. When I got home my husband Chuck was on the phone. I heard him say, “Mrs. Mullet’s sick again. Me? I’m fine. Never felt better.” I think he even whistled. Smug shit.

Tonight? Smug shit part deux.

I've had a cold since Tuesday. It's the same one that's been circling the house since before Thanksgiving, infecting the children, the schools, the grocery stores, the babysitters. My babysitter. I thought I was impervious this time but on Tuesday, when I brought Cam to Chuck's office so I could sneak away to a quick meeting, my throat was scratchy AF.

I told Chuck as much when I got back, and he announced proudly "I feel juuuuuust fine."

"You'll get this too!" I hissed, spinning on my heel and leaving with Cam.

On my way out, one of his co-workers — a woman Chuck's co-workers affectionately call Chocolate Chip because she has so many little newts on her face and neck — stopped me in the hall and asked if she could have a minute.



Immediately my heart started pounding. When one of your spouse's co-workers asks for a moment in private it can only mean one thing: your spouse's penis has been canvasing the office building.

"I wanted to show you something," she said. "This is a little awkward..."

Dear gawd. I held my breath.

She handed me Chuck's coffee mug.

"Chuck never cleans this," she said. "He just pours new coffee on the old coffee from the day before." She pointed inside. "Look, there's mold."



"Gross!" Cam and I both said.

"We're worried he's going to get really sick."

I thought of Chuck's earlier pronouncement, "I feel juuuuust fine." His smarty smarty pants grin.

I smiled at Chocolate Chip. "If he's made it this far, I'm sure Chuck will be juuuuust fine. But it's sweet of you to mention it."

"Sure!" she said. "Bye Cam!"

So that was Tuesday: learning that my husband's hygiene is causing people concern (but at least not his penis) and coming down with a cold.

And now it's Saturday and I've been binge watching Hallmark holiday movies and blowing through tissues like a madwoman because I am still mother effin sick.

So sick I had to miss out on Chuck's cousin's Christmas party tonight.

Chuck took the three kids to the party and left me to revel in solitary confinement with my mucus. He did call me, though, to say he missed me. He even put me on a video chat so I could say hi to everyone. Halfway through my garbled greeting one of Chuck's sisters started to laugh and said, "Look! Mrs. Mullet's nose is so red!"

"Like Rudolph!" someone else cried.

There was loud laughter.

"They've been drinking," Chuck whispered.

"It's fine," I told Chuck.

"Well, feel better. And don't worry, I feel juuuuust fine."

Oh Chuck, I'm not worried.

Coffee, honey?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Signs that it's time to keep sweatshirts and blankets in the car instead of just reusable shopping bags

I did something kind of stupid.

Despite the ick feeling I had in my gut, I took a preliminary writing job for Mr. Gray. He's the employer I interviewed with back in June who was concerned that, because I have children, an emergency might arise while I was at work, thus making me an unreliable/shitty employee. I never did submit a writing sample; instead he decided to give me a press release to write, with no deadline.

After he emailed me the contacts' names and phone numbers for the release he wrote, "I'm counting on you!"

"You got it!" I shot back.

No sooner had I hit send email than Cam walked into my room, clutched his stomach and puked all over the floor. That delayed my writing for a few days because, as luck would have it, the other two boys got it within 24 hours. (I should have known to run the other way when I was dropping Cam off for pre-school and one of his classmates was yacking on the sidewalk. Rookie move!)

At least I'd laid the ground work: I'd done my research on the topic, emailed and called my sources and started to shape my story.

As soon as the boys were back on their feet, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Except that I had two freelance jobs that had been sitting on the back burner. As soon as I finished those I could get to work on Mr. Gray's release.

Then the sitter started throwing up. My mom too. Then Chuck. 

Childcare became a mirage in the desert.



Days passed. Then a few more days.

Finally! I finally had time to write the release.

Then my eyeball started to ache. Then it stung. Then it felt like someone was stabbing it with a dagger. When I looked at a computer screen it only felt worse, so I covered the bad eye with an eye patch from one of the kid's Halloween costumes and typed as much as I could.



"Rest your eye," Chuck ordered when he caught me wincing at the computer in my pirate patch. He shut off my computer and walked me to bed. I was asleep by 8:15 p.m.

When I woke up the next morning my eyelid was swollen shut, and the skin around it looked like a football.

"Agh!" Chuck cried in horror. "You're going to the doctor!"

By that time, light hurt my eye too, and of course the day was cloudless, so I grabbed what I could from the car to cover it — which was, of course, a reusable shopping bag (at least it was clean) — and put it over my head. We live an hour from our in-network eye doctor; thank you Affordable Care Act. I half expected someone to glance over on the highway, see me with a bag over my head, and call me in as an attempted abduction, but we arrived unbothered.

I guess Chuck doesn't look suspicious enough.

"You have what could be a fatal eye infection," the eye doctor told me after he examined me. "If the infection goes to your brain that's it for you."

But I have a press release to write, I thought to myself. The doctor wrote me a prescription and told me to come back in two days.

I asked Chuck to email Mr. Gray from my account and explain I had a life-threatening illness but that the release was 90% done. A few days passed. My eye improved. Mr. Gray didn't reply. A few more days passed; my eye was almost completely healed. Still no word from Mr. Gray. Even though it still stung to look at the computer, I finished the damn press release.  

I was about to email it to Mr. Gray when I saw that the local media had written a story about the very topic of my press release. Using the same sources. Touting the same product launch. Then I understood: Mr. Gray had wanted the release pre-launch and he'd wanted me to sleuth out the launch date to see how much I'd been paying attention. To see how with it I was.

But I wasn't with it. Oh no, I was as far from with it as your earlobe is from your ass crack. I had crawled out of a vomit hole and I'd worn a pirate patch. I'd driven on the interstate with my head in a shopping bag.

I'd been exactly the person Mr. Gray had believed I was: someone who is derailed by motherhood's emergencies.

I sent him the release anyway. I didn't charge him, and I never heard from him again. I guess I could have listened to my gut, and said "no thanks" after my strange interview. Instead I had to listen to my eyeball.

Seriously, if all of your body parts are telling you the same thing, it probably wasn't meant to be. And man, this really was not meant to be.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I'm also covering my ass. Literally

I'm making progress in the self-improvement/self-care/self-love/self-not-being-a-shitshow-department, I really am. It all started with new reusable grocery bags.

Then I started running. I'm 17 pounds away from my pre-3 kids weight and let's be honest, it's not going to magically melt off, especially if I keep eating all of the kids' candy. I've been running just a few times a week and for just a few feet, but it's enough that I've decided to sign up for the Hot Chocolate Run on Dec. 2 in Massachusetts. So I have motivation to keep on moving. Right on out of Connecticut.

Then I decided to invest in some new pajamas, instead of continuing to recycle old sweatpants and yoga pants from 20 years ago, and here's why:

Junior: "Hey Mom? When you went outside to help Everett get into his friend's car I could see your..."

Me: "My what, honey?"

Junior: "From the way you bent over, I don't know if you know but..."

Me: "But what?"

Junior: "That's kind of the point. It's a butt thing. The one with two Ts."

Me: "Could you just come out and say it?" 

Junior: "You have a rip in your pajamas! When you bent over to help Everett I could see your...and the kid's dad could see your..."

Me: "Butt?"

Junior: "And your..."

Me: "Underwear??"

Junior: [Turning beet red] "Yes! All of it!" 

Me: "Good God!" 



Junior: "It's ok, Mom. The dad looked at his phone instead of..." 

Me: "Agh!" 

Junior: [Turning beet red] "I know..."  

Me: [Squinting my eyes] "So you and your brothers can say poop, pee, diarrhea, the squirts, penis, butt and potty stuff AND put your hands down your pants 24-7 AND fart till the cows come home but you can't say the word underwear when it's about your own mother's?" 

Junior: "Pretty much..."  

Me: "Good to know."  

So. Moving forward (and heading into Christmas season Chuck, wink, wink) instead of spending money on my kids' clothes, I'm going to buy myself some freaken clothes, starting with items that cover my unmentionables. And I'm getting new socks. No more holey socks for mom while the kids run around in thermal, moisture wicking socks. 



NO MORE HOLEY SOCKS this winter.

Especially now that I'm a runner.*




 *Who also walks a lot. 

P.S. I love this woman's expression, by the way. I bet she has awesomely perfect pajamas and that when hers rip she promptly hucks them across the room and yells, "UNACCEPTABLE!" and then does some crunches.

P.P.S. I should probably start doing crunches too, huh? 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Why do all of life's turning points happen in the grocery store?

A few weeks ago, my friend Sandy visited for the weekend. I've been feeling more frazzled than usual — too much work, too many commitments, too much bickering between the kids, etc.— so I was extra excited about getting some alone time with my close friend.

I mean, she's the kind of friend who'll visit during a raging flea infestation. What's not to be excited about?

We decided to make dinner, so a trip to the grocery store was in order. 

I'd just been to the grocery store that morning. It had been one of those frantic runs. Chuck and I were the soccer snack parents for a 9 a.m. game and of course, we'd remembered at the last minute. I'd raced out at 8:05 a.m. with no make-up on, shitty clothes, eye goop still in my eyes to spend $50 on pre-cut fruit.


The morning went downhill from there. At 8:45, we couldn't find Junior's shin guards. Everett's cleats were caked in mud. Cam sat on the kitchen floor and wailed to anyone who would listen: "Why don't I have a soccer team? WHY?"

There wasn't enough milk for cereal —"Didn't you just go to the grocery store?" Chuck wanted to know — and, because we sprinted out of the house, the boys left their water bottles on the counter. 

FRANTIC. FRAZZLED. HOT MESS. All of us.

Anyway. On my second trip to the store, my friend and I sat and brainstormed a shopping list. In the quiet of the car, I started to feel funny.

"Do you have orzo at home?" she asked.

"Maybe?"

"Garlic?"

"Maybe?"

"Cherry tomatoes?"

"Maybe?"

There was suddenly a lump in my throat.

My friend opened her wallet, which had a special compartment for her store cards and coupons, and rifled through them. Then she reached behind her and pulled her neatly folded reusable bags from the floor, stepped out of the car and calmly put the bags into the carriage. 

As soon as I got out of the car, I burst into tears.

I saw myself from that morning, and it was ghastly.

See, I never walk across the parking lot. I sprint. Inside, I never peruse the aisles or reference a list. Instead I talk to myself — usually aloud — and wonder if I need spaghetti sauce or butter, then berate myself for not knowing.

"Why don't you ever make a list?" I ask myself. "You're so stupid! Get it together, dummy!"

I never put food into the carriage, I throw it. My reusable bags are always crumbled into a disgusting wad of old receipts, expired coupons and crusty meat juice. I'm surprised the CDC hadn't come to quarantine them. When I hand my bags to the bagger, I swear he/she grimaces and asks for rubber gloves.

Every shopping trip is like an episode of Supermarket Sweep. Without the free groceries.



I relayed ALL of this to my friend: the dirty bags, the missing coupons, the expensive fruit, the disorganization, the sprinting, the talking aloud, the constant and mean self-recrimination...All the yuck that has become the norm. 

"I want new reusable bags," I cried. "I don't want to live like this anymore. I don't want to be the crazy woman at the grocery store anymore." (It's been going on for years — it's why and how Cam learned to swear.)

After I got my shit together, we drove to a mall, where I got a proper wallet (I'm not kidding, she had a coupon.) I put my cards, cash and stamps in it. We stopped for lunch and a glass of wine. Then we went back to the grocery store and calmly shopped. If we turned down an aisle and saw a frazzled parent with a screaming child, we chose another aisle. (Parenting PTSD is real.)

I bought new, clean, shiny reusable bags.

At home, I unpacked the groceries, then folded the bags and put them into the trunk. I recycled all of my old bags. I also emptied the trunk of a closet's worth of sweatshirts, shoes, toys and coloring books. The kids cleaned their cleats and put them in the shoe bin. I sat down with a pen and the calendar and wrote down the next time Chuck and I are snack parents.

Later that night, after we'd had more wine and I was able to laugh about my meltdown, we set about to making dinner. I opened the cupboard and sighed.

"We did have orzo and garlic," I moaned. "We bought them for nothing. I'm so stup—"

I stopped myself.

"I'm not stupid," I said. "We already have most of the ingredients, so we can make a double batch. You can bring some home, and I can bring some to my neighbor." (My neighbor lost the use of her hand and has a hard time cooking.)

We had a feast. We ate so much we were almost sober again. Almost.



I put some in a container for my neighbor, along with bread and cookies. There was so much food to share, in fact, that I had to put it in...

a reusable bag.

And that is the story of how I didn't kill my neighbor with salmonella — and also how I learned to slow the eff down, use a proper wallet, function like a non-crazy person at the grocery store, and be nicer to myself.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

If you're a parent you need this product NOW

I don't know about you, but having the kids back in school always makes me think of one thing: vomit.

If you've read this blog right along, you know that we get the stomach bug every three days. I've accepted the fact that no matter how much I clean with bleach, Lysol wipes, vinegar, and so on, if the bug is in school or in town or 30 states away, we will all get it.

Because vomit knows no physical boundaries, it has made an appearance in every room of my house and of course, in the car. I can clean puke from a radiator or stuffed animal or even off the dog — our poor dog happened to get caught next to Junior as he projectiled all over the kitchen — till the cows come home, but there's something about gooey puke stuck to car seat belts and in car cushion cracks that makes me want to, yes, VOMIT.

Cam happened to throw up in the car a few weeks ago. (From car sickness, but when it comes to puke does it really matter why it happened?) And I know this is gross but because life has been so busy, I never really had a chance to clean it properly.

Instead, I threw hot water on the seats and coated them with a thick layer of baking soda. Then I sprayed the seats with vinegar and drizzled a few drops of lavender essential oil on top. Then I threw some bath towels over the sizzling, crackling potpourri of mess and opened the windows.

Set it and forget it!

Unfortunately vomit doesn't magically disappear, even under a five inch layer of science experiments. For a month — oops, did I say two weeks? — the kids have been riding around, noses plugged, sitting on what resembles toothpaste — and it's been horrible.

I finally said, enough and decided to invest in a hand-held steam cleaner. It was probably the best decision of my life. I mean look! Look at how well it worked!



It turned my car seat sludge into freshly brewed coffee.*

For real and much, much better tips on cleaning vomit from a car (in case, like me, you just can't get enough) check out this post by Mary Brock: How to Clean Vomit From a Car Seat (in 16 Easy Steps!). It gave me a much needed laugh.

* That's not coffee, but I'm sure you already knew that. And in case you're curious I got the BISSELL Little Green Portable Spot and Stain Cleaner. I now sleep with it I love it so much.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

And now, the thing that saves my marriage...

It is...

It is...

that my husband and I send each other SEXY pictures...

...of traffic during our commutes.  










Ok, it's not at all sexy but the innuendo-laced commentary is: "ugh"—can't you just feel it? UUUGGGHHHH—







Sigh.

The truth is that the shiny back end of a Camry will never compare to sweet Chuck's. If only the asshats in Connecticut would learn how to drive (see related article "Connecticut Has Most Unsafe Drivers in the Country: Report”) then maybe we could move onto something more titillating than illuminated tail lights and the smell of exhaust.

Someday.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The thing that almost ruined my marriage this summer...

Is this mother effing pool:



It was four weeks into summer, and not one person who owned a pool had invited us over. The kids were driving me crazy to go to the beach, but yuck! I loathe the salt and sand. Besides, 99% of the beachfront in Connecticut is privately owned, leaving the rest of us helpless saps to trip over each other on the remaining five feet of sand.

So anyway, I bought an Intex pool online at Walmart and picked it up that night. The reviews were good. The price was right (it was on sale for $99). Bam, done.

I dragged the box into the backyard with the help of some neighbors and waited for Chuck to get home from work. When he got out of the car — the poor man commutes an hour each way — he saw me standing there, pointing at the box, and tried to run into the house, but the kids and I each grabbed an arm and dragged him to the backyard, begging him to Please, please, please set this up tonight!

He took one look and said what I KNEW he would say: "We can't put this in the backyard. It's not level."

"But it is!" I argued nicely. (I'd had a few shots of vodka to prepare me for the smackdown.) "It's perfect back here. We can sit on the patio and watch the kids. I can see them from the kitchen window. It's private. It's perfect."

"It's not level."

"But it is!"

"It's not."

"It really is."

"It's really not."

Chuck took my hand and pulled me to our side yard and said, "See? This is level."

To be blunt, our side yard is like an exposed asscrack. Every house in the neighborhood and in the neighborhood behind ours can see our side yard. It's why my phone blows up when I shovel shit in my pajamas.

"Seventy-five children live in our neighborhood," I said. "If we put the pool here, we will never have a moment's peace. Do you want to kill me this summer?"

"It's level."

"It's a death wish."

And so on.

Our voices grew louder and louder, which attracted the attention of our young, fertile neighbors Bob and Claire, who wandered over to say hi — and, incidentally, proved my point about the lack of privacy in our asscrack side yard.

"Everything ok?" Bob asked.

"We're putting up a pool in the backyard."

"It's not level," Chuck yelled.

"But it is!"

Bob and Claire quickly left. 

I went to the backyard, ripped open the box and started assembling the pool myself. "If you won't put it here then I will!"

Chuck, because he is a stand-up guy, sighed heavily and told me to step aside. He said he'd put up the pool under one condition: If the frame bent or the filters didn't work because it wasn't level, it was my own problem to fix. I agreed.

For three weeks everything went swimmingly. Then — d'oh — the pool started to slope. The filters stopped working. The water turned yuck.

It turns out Chuck was right: The backyard isn't level. I swear I had no idea.

"Kids," I said, "we're going to drain the pool and move it to the side yard."

As luck would have it, Chuck got home from work just as we were moving it. He jumped out of his car and yelled, "Oh no! After everything we went through we are keeping that pool in the backyard! The grass is already ruined."

"But it's not level!" I said. 

"AGGGGGHHH" Chuck screamed. I swear I saw Bob and Claire pull down their window shades, just enough to keep them from view.

"Kids," I said, "your father is about to have a heart attack. Help me dig."

So we dug — sweating and sweating — piling the dirt up on a tarp and transporting it away.  


Chuck got his leveler and instructed us on where to dig. The kids moaned. I spurred them on. I moaned. Chuck told us to dig deeper! Faster! It was like a scene from the Colonies in the Handmaid's Tale — except that the overseer, Chuck, got so disgusted with our paltry shoveling skills that he joined in.

Deeper! Faster!

Finally Chuck got his leveler and gave us the thumb's up. We moved the pool back into place.

"Mom?" Junior said hesitantly. "The pool is filthy."

"Then we'll clean it," I shouted. "Get me a brush and the dish soap."

I climbed into the pool, got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the dirt, grime and slime off the pool liner. Hours later, it seemed, I emerged, covered head to toe in brown soap bubbles. I swear, Bob and Claire were still watching out the window.

"Rinse that bitch and fill it up," I yelled. "She's ready!"

So here we are, weeks after that:


The kids LOVE the pool. It's the best fucking money I ever spent. I highly, highly recommend it.* The kids swim for hours, snorkeling and making whirlpools. The water height reaches my toddler's chest. I can watch the kids from the privacy of the patio. No one can see us.

There's just one thing. Now that the dirt has, um, settled, and the weight of the water has really, um, pulled the pool around, it's kind of obvious that even with all of the shoveling the, um, backyard definitely has a serious slope.


Chuck! I'M SORRY. Don't leave me! I love you! We can make it work!

*I also highly recommend the pool cover, pool chemicals, floating chlorine dispense and extra filters.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Free to be Wonder Woman

Awhile ago, my husband Chuck took the kids to ComiCONN (basically it's a convention for comic book enthusiasts). By kids I mean the two older boys. Cam, our toddler, stayed home with me. We're at that point: Chuck and I are old and tired —so very old and soooo very tired — and whenever an event comes up that the older boys want to go to, Chuck and I look at each other and say, "Do you feel like chasing Cam/dealing with Cam's meltdown/leaving if Cam needs a nap?"

Invariably the answer is no, and off one of us goes with Junior and Everett.

ComiCONN isn't really my thing, so I was happy to stay home with Cam. Everett must have thought I felt left out though because he came home and dangled a trinket in front of me.

"You're Wonder Woman, Mom!"

Apparently, he'd insisted Chuck buy me the necklace.



"Put it on! Put it on!" he hollered.

I did.

"It's awesome!" I said. "It'll go great with my Wonder Woman coffee mug, t-shirt, shot glass, pin, Christmas ornament and Lego figurine!"
 
It's true. It will. I've gotten many Wonder Woman gifts over the years (as well as Princess Leia). When you're the only woman living in a house of boys and those boys are into superheroes and Star Wars, it only makes sense that you're the default female character.

Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe instead of lamenting the fact that I'm always Wonder Woman and Princess Leia (for Christmas I got the figurine in my stocking), I should be thanking my lucky stars the kids aren't showering me with Rockman and Jabba the Hut gifts instead. I have been known to look like this before my morning coffee:



Anyway. On the back of the pendant it said this: 


What I do I do freely and with a clear conscience.

When I read it, I laughed out loud. I laughed so hard my sides ached and tears ran down my face. I was a huge Wonder Woman fan growing up, and yet I'd never heard this line before.

"What is it?" the kids wanted to know.

"Nothing," I said. How could I explain to them that I could not for the life of me think of another line that was in such direct opposition to how I feel as a mother?

I read it again:

What I do I do freely and with a clear conscience.

What I do I do freely? HAH!! More like "What I do I NEVER do freely." Poop? Shower? Chew my food? Read a sentence of a book? Brush my teeth? Check work email? Try on clothes?

Nothing free about doing any of those things with three kids underfoot. Nosiree.

How about ""What I do I do...with a clear conscience?" Another tear-inducing belly roll. Thanks to mom guilt, I won't have a clear conscience about doing things freely — leaving the kids to go swim-up bar hopping for months? Traveling the world instead of washing their clothes? Using our savings for a new BMW cherry red station wagon instead of saving for college? — until the kids are grown and out of the house, and even that's debatable.

"Do you like it?" Everett had asked me later that night.

"I love it," I had answered. And I did. The pendant reminds me of how I want to feel again someday: free to do things freely. The conscience part? Meh. I've had so much mom guilt, I figure I'm due a bank robbery freebie or two.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

When your sons play with your childhood Barbies

They make a man cave.

Ken has everything he needs: food on his lap, his beer fridge, his recycling dumpster, a hamburger, a camera — I hope he's not taking pictures of himself because I'm not sure he's wearing pants under that pink throw — and a space to recline. Of course, his hands are below deck.


When I asked Ken if Barbie could drop by he said, "I only want one person at my place and that's me, Sugar."

Typical!

The last time these Barbies made an appearance (besides in my actual childhood) was in 2010, when my father dropped them off at my house. Junior played with them as Chuck twitched in the background. Now, eight years later, Chuck just steps over them — the Barbies and the three kids — and sighs.

But it's ok, honey. See that monster truck in the background? There's a varied plate of entertainment at our sons' fingertips. Kind of like the one resting comfortably on Ken's lap — the one he won't share with Barbie because he's a selfish loaf.

I can see my work is cut out for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Summer BBQs from the outskirts...could someone bring me a beer already?



Every summer we go to the same BBQ at Denise and Matt's house for the fourth of July.

We've done it since Junior was a baby and yet, even though I've met and re-met all of their friends for the last 10 years, I've never been able to click with anyone...besides Chuck.

But Denise and Matt are Chuck's favorite friends, and he wants to talk to them. And Chuck is a social butterfly who sees me all of the time, so he doesn't feel like "clicking" with me at the BBQ. Unless it's horizontally — which, considering the gaggles of children running around, would be really inappropriate.

Besides the sort of unfriendly/slightly off crowd and the running children there are also goats, ducks, dogs, cats and rabbits. When I'm not following Chuck around like a lost puppy, I am reminding my kids to watch out for poop droppings from multiple species of animals.




Or I'm reminding my kids to slide down Denise and Matt's playscape slide ON A TOWEL PLEASE, otherwise, their shorts act like a paper towel and soak up the years of grime that's embedded in the slide, and they end up looking like they have track marks up their backs.

By the time we get to the fireworks a few hours later, which send all of the kids and animals into a frenzy — can you picture it? All of the shrieking, baaaing, quacking, barking, meowing and squeaking while the inebriated adults holler? — my nerves are shot.

If you can't tell, I really dread this BBQ.

My one saving grace has been my children. For the first two years we went, after I made nicey nice with all the fellow guests, I followed Junior around the BBQ. Toddlers never sit down, and neither did I, which meant my small talk consisted of "Ooops, there he goes again!"

When Junior was three and ready to run off and play with other kids, I followed Everett around the BBQ. Then, when Everett was three and ready to run off and play with other kids, I got to follow Cam around the BBQ.

So that's where I was this year: following Cam as he said hello to the livestock. As he inspected the trees in the yard for worms — "WOHMS"— and bugs — "Is it dead? Can I touch it? Can I see it? Is it fywin'? Is it jumpin'?" As he played with trucks in the yard.



Along the perimeter of the property, he and I were quiet onlookers. I sat in the grass with him. I was content. He was content.


If I had been sitting alone, Chuck would have given me "the look" and I would have felt guilty (sort of) and tried to make lame conversation with another mother about fruit snacks or cavities or sleep regression — all those stupid parenting conversations. But it's rude to sit alone for hours at a party. I get it. Unless you're drunk and conversing with the trees. Or ants. Then it's okay.

But there, alongside Cam, I wasn't rude. I was a diligent parent. I thought about how, for those of us who are on the shy side or don't click easily with people, a young child can be a blessing in disguise: guilt-free permission to avoid small talk or a reason to leave a dying conversation. Permission to remain on the outskirts.

I wondered about next year, when Cam is four and eager to play on his own more. I wondered about Denise and Matt's BBQ and about all the functions ahead, when I won't have a trusty sidekick with whom to sit in the grass and look for bugs. When I won't have my guaranteed "friend." I'm not ready to let it go and yet I don't really have a choice. It's the progression of parenting. They slowly learn how to walk and then they slowly walk away. Or they run, depending on their dexterity.

I need a tissue! This growing up shit is hard.

So is picking goat turds out of the grooves in my flipflops.

But I'll keep doing it.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Kind Of Post — except the part where I don't "kind of" have 3 kids



I've been thinking about going back to work full-time instead of cobbling together my income with 7+ freelance jobs, part-time work and curating the Crazy House, aka our loving homestead.

Now that Cam is three and in preschool part-time and the older boys are in school all day, it kind of makes sense (except the part where it's, um, summer). Plus, I kind of have co-worker envy. Like, when I see people in suits having lunch and talking shop, it makes me nostalgic for my Mulletville Corp days. Kind of. 

When I mentioned my feelings to a friend, she said she knew of an opening at a small ad agency a few towns away. I immediately took this as A SIGN and took my business suit to the drycleaners (it's been sitting in a closet since 2003 and yes, it kind of fits).

I sent off my resume and got a call for an interview.

Chuck and I spent hours pre-gaming it. What would the salary have to be for us to afford more childcare? What about my freelance clients? Would we have a million people in our home, like before? Who would keep the dog and cat company during the day?

HOURS. It's fun adulting!

A few days later, I arrived at the interview. The interviewer—let's call him Mr. Gray—was in a meeting, so I sat on a dinky couch in the hallway and waited patiently. The waistband of my suit was cutting into my stomach and causing gas pains, but I sat there smiling anyway.

Finally, Mr. Gray called me into his office. It was decorated starkly in red and black. The tall windows were screaming for curtains, blinds, bamboo shoots—anything!—but I got it: He was aging and trying to project a minimalistic, masculine vibe.

"Mrs. Mullet!" he said joyfully. "Come, sit."

We sat smiling awkwardly at each other. Then Mr. Gray casually informed me that the position I was interviewing for no longer existed and asked if I would be interested in a special part-time position.

D'oh!

I was about to ask what happened to the full-time position when he asked why I was currently freelancing and working part-time. I explained that it provided a certain amount of flexibility.

"I have children," I said, "but with all three in school in some capacity or another..."

"Three?" he winced.

"Yes, three. I have reliable childcare and..."

Mr. Gray smiled and shook his head knowingly. "Mothers are a special group," he said.

This is where it got strange.  

He picked up the black office phone and pretended to take a phone call.

"Hello?" he said to no one. "Oh dear, yes, I'll be right there."

He hung up and smiled. "You see, when a mother gets a phone call, it could be anyone. It could be a sick child. A sick husband. A grandmother. A doctor. A babysitter. A dog walker. A school. A dentist. And so we have to be careful about what we ask of mothers. Because so many people are relying on them."

A dentist? 

I mean, how would that phone call even go? "Mrs. Mullet! It's Dental Dick. Even though you're at work and your children are all at school, I randomly looked at an xray from 2002 and discovered all three of your children are missing their second mandibular axis points! Can you leave work right now and pick up your three children and be at the dentist's office in three minutes? It's a matter of life or death! You defintely should not be working full-time!"

But back to Mr. Gray...


"You have wonderful experience," he said. "I'd like to offer you a part-time position, Mrs. Mullet. But before that I need to ask, are you able to take phone calls at 7 o'clock at night. Because sometimes I need to call people at 7 o'clock at night and I know that that must be dinnertime...which I imagine is quite hectic."

What was happening?

Was Mr. Gray brothers with the archaic ear doctor I'd visited years before? Did people really still live with such antiquated ideas?

"Before I make you a firm offer," he said, "I need you to submit a writing sample. I'll email you the details."

He rose.

"Best!"

My jaw was still on the floor as I left. I should have told him where to stick his writing sample. I should have asked him, What if my dentist and you both call at 7 o'clock at night?? How will my overburdened little Mom brain handle it?

Instead I'm sitting here blogging about it. Because I'm kind of better at after-the-fact comebacks. And because I'd kind of rather spend my time blogging than submitting a writing sample for a company I'd never want to work for.

A dentist?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Man! There are a lot of holes in my neighborhood

Our young neighbors Bob and Claire are wonderful —which is a fricken relief because we basically share a yard. A flat, treeless yard. When my kids are drawing with chalk in our driveway or playing with the hose, Bob and Claire can watch us from their dining room window until they die of boredom. Likewise, when Bob and Claire grill on their porch or prune their hostas, we can watch them 'till the cows come home.

And we do — we watch each other. It's a running joke. "I saw you with your groceries. Too bad your watermelon fell and cracked in the driveway. I would have eaten some." And "I saw you mowing your lawn and sneezing and coughing. I didn't mean to laugh, but I did."

We're like cats watching cat TV — it's hard to look away. It's lame, but it's a slow neighborhood.  

Neither of us can plant trees or put up a fence because of an easement with the property. I've done my best with decorative plants and shrubs but yah, none of them are high enough to hide their house from plain view.



Usually it doesn't bother me. Our friendship with Bob and Claire is straight out of "We Have The Best Neighbors Ever." They watch our dog when we go away, even if she smells like skunk. We watch their dog and one-eyed cat. If I lock myself out of my house, Bob leaves his in-town job and lets me in with his extra key. This happens more than I'd like to admit.

And, to be honest, they're kind of like movie stars. They have a million friends. When Bob mows the lawn shirtless, half the neighborhood peers out the window. Ditto for when Claire sunbaths in her bikini.

But then sometimes, like the first summer I had my third son, Cam, I wished I could erect a 50-foot brick wall to hide from them because you know, it's kind of hard to look like you have your shit together when you have three kids — and one of them is a baby.

There Bob and Claire would be, grilling and laughing with their friends, and I'd be rocking Cam in his stroller in the driveway, praying he'd take a nap — for awhile it was the only way he'd sleep — and I would be sweaty and exhausted and starving and lactating, and Junior and Everett would yell from the kitchen window, "MOM! What's for dinner? MOM! We're starving!" and Cam would start screaming again and then I'd want to scream "Just eat your fingers for Pete's sake!!"



I hated it. I didn't want to let my neighbors hear Cam cry. I didn't want them to hear Junior and Everett yelling.

I couldn't let them see I was losing it.

I started parking the car closer to the kitchen window so I could hide behind it and rock Cam and keep an ear out for Junior and Everett. I'd cry a little. Sometimes I'd cry a lot. Meeting the needs of so many people is overwhelming. Doing it while listening to your buff, childless neighbors laugh and drink wine only exacerbates matters. 

But life is funny. 

Cam is three now; his driveway napping days are over. Junior and Everett are older and can actually get themselves a snack if they're hungry. I no longer approach dinnertime like Rocky going into the 15th round. In short, it doesn't make me burst into tears.

Bob and Claire now have a one year old, and they just found out they have another on the way. They'll have a toddler and a newborn at the same time

Sleep deprived, stressed and trying to handle Claire's morning sickness, I overheard Bob whisper to Chuck this weekend, "How do you survive it?"

Chuck shook his head and said, "You just do." 

I realized how far I've come. We've come. We've crawled out of the hole. Ok, maybe not out of the hole but we are a hell of a lot closer to the top than we were before. Or, if parenthood were a series of holes, we've climbed out of some of them. Unless we have a puker, we sleep through the night. Bam, there's one hole. We can leave the house without a diaper bag. Bam! There's another hole. We don't use sippy cups anymore. Bam! I only wipe one other person's ass besides my own. Bam! That's a huge hole.

Yup. Now we'll be the ones listening to their kids scream — maybe over the sizzle of the grill and the clink of wine glasses. And maybe, just maybe, a few more shrubs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

We all have our vices. Mine are just...bulkier

I've been away from this blog for awhile. I know.

But see, we are trying to move. Just thinking about moving is hard, but actually trying to move is even harder. I guess, logically, moving from trying to move to moving itself is the hardest — say what?— but we're not there yet. We're in the purging and painting stage.

And in the disagreeing about where to move to stage.

But that's another blog post.

As part of our "Look! Our small, over-crowded house has more room" plan, Chuck cleared out one half of our unfinished basement. I helped but truth be told, half of the mess down there were wires and cables he's brought home. It's an odd thing to hoard, but he's in the IT field and we all have our thing. Mine is rugs. Mostly floral.



And blankets.  Mostly (again) floral.



I wish I felt the urge to hoard something smaller, like thimbles, but alas, I'm drawn to large squares of fabric. Jute, cotton, wool, fleece. I can't help myself.

Chuck braved the dank, spider-ridden crevices of the basement. He vacuumed. He cleaned the cement walls. He hung curtains and bought rug squares (I'll never let them go!). He even set up desks and lights. Then the older boys — 10 year old Junior and 7 year old Everett — brought all of their Legos and video games down to the newly created Small Man Cave and eagerly closed the door behind them.

That left me and Cam, standing in the now almost vacant den. It was eerily quiet.

 "Hello?" I jokingly called out.

"Yah Mom?" Junior and Everett yelled through the floor.

"Are you gone, just like that?" I called.

 "We'll be back up for dinner!"

I had the strange feeling that they'd left for college. Of course they were right downstairs, in the basement, but the packing up and moving part wouldn't leave my mind. It all happened so fast. And I was left with such a mess of Lego parts and quiet.

I remember when Junior was one. I wrote a post about him growing up. It seems unbelievable that he'll be 11, but what is more unbelievable is how your older children accelerate the growing up process of their siblings. As if the oldest grabs the hand of the younger child, and so on, and they form a chain and zip through time. All you can do is stand in a fuzzy haze and watch. Thanks to Junior, Everett is as smooth and cool as a tweenager. And Cam. The kid is three going on 21.

Back in 2008 — gawd this blog is old — I wrote about Junior: "... I kept thinking, I am pouring my soul into this child and every day letting him go and it is enough to burst and break my heart at the same time."

I still feel that way. Times three.

OUCH.

Personalized quilts with their faces. That's how I'll manage I guess. I'll get quilts and more quilts beaming with my children's faces, and Chuck can cuddle his wires and I'll cuddle my blankets and hopefully we won't strangle ourselves in quilts and cords when no one's home to see it.

Sniff, sniff. The nerve of those kids! Leaving us all alone to fend for ourselves!

Someone hand me a rug square?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The most beautiful yet trying, soul sucking gifts in the world

I want to write a post about how hard it is to be a parent, but I don't want anyone to think this is a woe-is-me post or a we-parents-have-it-so-tough-so-pity-us post. Because it's not.

But goddammit, being a parent is fucking hard.



First, there's the baby. Right out of the gate, getting the baby conceived and then birthed has its challenges. There's infertility, sperm swimming the wrong way, IVF, miscarriage, early labor, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, motherhood after 40 (AMA), you name it...it's a crapshoot. 

But it's also beautiful. A baby is the most wonderful gift in the world.

BUT. Then you have to feed the baby and keep it clean and healthy. Again, challenges. Breastfeeding. Formula feeding. Hormones. Post-partum. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Advice from fellow parents. Advice from your parents. Should you buy organic food. Store bought food. Make homemade food. Should you buy organic soap. Store bought soap. Make homemade soap. What if the kid has gas. GERD. Loose stools. No stools. Diaper explosions. Colic. Nap schedules. Sleep training. Crying it out. Remember the vaccines. Fix the diaper rash. The eczema. The teething gums. The cradle cap. The blocked tear ducts. Colds. Boogers. Wipe its ass. Wipe its nose.

What about your ass and your nose? Nope. No time for that. You've got a baby.

You also have laundry. You also haven't slept. You're arguing with your partner because you're sleep deprived zombies and when you try to hug or get horizontal your breasts leak and your stitches tear. You're overwhelmed. But hey! Your four weeks of maternity leave is up. Time to grab your breast pump and get back to work!



In a blink, your baby becomes a toddler. Now you really can't go anywhere because your life is surrounded by baby gates. Add in tantrums. Daycare. Babysitters. Grandparents. Potty training. The alphabet. Old McDonald. Separation anxiety. 1-2-3. Naps. No naps. Nap schedules. PBS. Hours at the playground. Running up the slide. Finger foods. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Sleep regression. Lost stuffed animals. Monsters under the bed. Pre-school. Meltdowns. Tears. 

But it's also beautiful. A toddler is the most wonderful gift in the world. 

There are tickles. First steps. Songs. Hugs. Kisses. Laughter. Homemade art projects. "Mama." Stories before bed. "Dada." Big Bird. The Muppets. Cuddling. Hearing your kid whisper "I love you" makes it all worth it. Most days. If you decided to throw another kid into the mix, let me say again, having a baby is the most wonderful gift in the world. But you just slid down the chute back to the beginning. 

You are an animal.



In a blink, your toddler becomes a little kid. You can leave the house more easily. Great! But you know how you made your kid watch only PBS and you didn't use swear words in the house and you tried to instill proper values like respect and kindness into your kid? Well, some asshole on your kid's bus just shot ALL of that to shit. In one bus ride. Suddenly your kid knows words like fuck, dyke, dick, asshole, gay. Your kid knows about Sandy Hook. The true awfulness of it. Your kid is having nightmares now. 

Your kid is five.

There are school milestones to meet. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Bullies. Field trips. Stifling playground rules. Safety. Safety first. Safety second. Helicopter parents. Conferences. Homework. Sports. Boy Scouts. After school clubs. Friends. Common Core bullshit. Sleepovers. Birthday parties. Your car becomes a taxi. You've amassed enough toys to fill a Toys "R" Us. You step on toys. Curse them. Accuse them of copulating. 

Every day, it seems, your kid knows something new, something you wish the world would have kept to itself. Kim Kardashian's ass. Kim Kardashian's breasts. Curse words. Hatred. Violence. Lockdown drills. Fear of the dark. Of what's in the closet. You try in vain to shepherd your kid back to PBS, back to sweetness and innocence but you can't, the world is sucking him into the grit.

But it's also beautiful. A little kid is the most wonderful gift in the world. 

There's a person in there! A person with opinions and humor and bravery and morals and now, before you go to sleep, you lie in the dark and think maybe, just maybe, you didn't fuck up this little person and that maybe he has a chance of being someone great. If you decided to throw another kid into the mix, let me say again, having a baby is the most wonderful gift in the world. But you just slid down the chute back to the beginning. 

You are an amazing, crazy animal.



In a blink, your little kid becomes a big kid. There are more school milestones to meet. Food allergies. Skin allergies. Bullies. Field trips. Stifling playground rules. Safety. Conferences. More and more homework. Sports. Problems with friends. Questions about the opposite sex. Best friends. Questions about the meaning of life. Your car is a non-stop taxi. You are a marathon deed doer, racing from work to school to home to soccer to laundry to homework to the library to work again. You think you ate. You think you pooped. Your life becomes a series of "Just give me a second."

Your kid is 10.

Now you're REALLY enmeshed in the influence of other kids, other parents, THE WORLD. Your kid, thank God, can see the bad kids from the good. But he sees everything. He wants to know what 69ing is. Humping. Rape. Periods. Tampons. Boners. Herpes. 

There's still Kim Kardashian's ass. Kim Kardashian's breasts. Some days you wish that's all there was because it's easier than talking about nuclear war, immigration, influenza, concert shootings, suicide bombers, endangered species, global warming, Trump, abortion, live streaming, murder, hazing, suicide, domestic violence, gang rape, school shootings. 

You rant and rail against "the kid on the bus" — the one who has been filling your sweet child's head with all of the world's ugliness — but you know deep down that this is just part of being a parent. If it's not "that kid" it's social media. It's mainstream media. TV. New Year's Eve. Disney movies. Cell phones. Youtube. Tablets. Video games. Horrible, violent video games. 

You can't keep it out — it's water gushing through holes in the wall. You have to have faith that you gave your child the tools to make good choices, pick good friends, choose a good career. Choose kindness. Choose love. 

But it's also beautiful. A big kid is the most wonderful gift in the world. 



You have real, actual conversations. You discover that some of the things your spouse doesn't like to do — like cook — is something your kid loves to do. You find yourself cutting vegetables and stir frying with your kid. There's laughter. Confiding. When he hurts you with his words he means it when he says I'm sorry. You're not stuck on 1-2-3 or A-B-C but rather, you're exchanging ideas. 

Family vacations are actually fun. You can leave the house without bags of supplies. You can let your kid walk to the park with friends. Before you go to sleep, you lie in the dark and think maybe, just maybe, you didn't fuck up this big person and that maybe he has a chance of being someone great. 

It's heart-wrenching. All of it. It's also fucking hard as hell. 

And I didn't even mention trying to make your marriage work. Or keeping your boss happy. Or maintaining close friendships. Or having some outside interests like running or sleeping or sitting on the couch. And, perhaps the biggest caveat yet, Chuck and I haven't even gotten to the teenage years. At this rate, I'll be bald from stress and have had 10 heart attacks before my three kids arrive at that pit stop. 

All I ask is that if you see me along the way, you'll do something nice, like buy me a beer or tell me I have a granola bar stuck to my shirt. Because this shit is hard. I promise I'll do the same. 

Unless you're the asshole parent of that little jackass peckerhead on the bus.

Oh baby, can't we give it one more try? Or, does anyone want to buy a house in Connecticut? I didn't think so

We haven’t sold our old house in Mulletville Lite yet. Two months ago, when we moved out, we ran out of room in the damn moving truck,...