Thursday, December 19, 2019

The best places to hide your booze when you're trying to parent a middle schooler

Anywhere, ok? Just stash that shit wherever you can.

But seriously.

We've been living in our new town for just about four months and let me tell you, this transitioning business is dicey. Cam, our four year old, has settled in nicely with his new friends at school, but I saw that coming. I wish all friendships could be as easy as Hey, I like blue dinosaurs and pick my nose too, wanna be my best friend? 



Everett, our eight year old, has settled in too, though the first few weeks of school were rocky. He missed his best friend. He didn't know who to sit with at lunch. He played alone at recess.



Thankfully that's all evening out.

Junior, in middle school (that gut-wrenching, unforgiving cesspool of hormones, popularity, acne and homework), is the one struggling. He, too, misses his best friend and hates lunchtime and the cafeteria.



"I don't matter to anyone," he told me and Chuck last night. There were tears. "I don't know who to sit with. No would notice if I never came back."

He thought he was in tight with a group, but suddenly he didn't have a seat, and no one seemed to care. My heart broke.

I know how he feels. I'm pretty sure everyone knows how he feels.

I moved in middle school and remember all too well standing by the entrance of the cafeteria, wondering who the hell to sit with. I felt invisible. Ditto for transferring from one college to the next. And for starting new jobs and meeting new parents at birthday parties and play dates.

Even now, as a freelancer, I'm that transient person who is sometimes on-site, sometimes included in staff meetings or parties. I joke to Chuck that if I didn't show up for a few weeks, no one would notice. And it's true. I did show up one morning to find the office empty. They'd planned a staff retreat and forgotten to tell me.



D'oh.

Juxtaposed against — and exacerbating — the sting of unfamiliarity is the cushy, soul-affirming goodness of being known. I didn't realize how much I've been missing it until a few weeks ago, when I went back to our old house, which we finally have on the market.

While I was there, my neighbor stopped in and hugged me. Really hugged me. She asked about my kids and family. Another neighbor stopped by to tease me about my summer wreathe still on the front door. It was easy and fabulous and so different than the shallow and sometimes strained conversations I have with the mothers at Cam's preschool, who, like Junior said, might not notice if I never came back.

It's going to work out, I know. Junior needs to build history with his new classmates. I need to build history here too. Make memories and share experiences. Join clubs and play sports. All of that takes time, patience, vodka.

So much vodka. Maybe Jello shots too (for me, not for Junior, hello).



I can't help but marvel over how our children's struggles mirror our own and how they look to us, as we are floundering — like desperate fish on the shore — alongside them, for guidance. I want to yell, "Hell if I know!" but I can't, I'm supposed to know shit.

It's all part of the human experience, but damn if it doesn't hurt. And damn if I haven't been having reoccurring dreams of my own middle school traumas, especially now that Junior has discovered Axe body spray. If I close my eyes, I'm back in the gymnasium, slow dancing with my sweaty crush who dumped me two dances later for a girl who would go to second base.


Oh, how I cried.

I wouldn't do middle school again for a billion dollars. I tell Junior that. Chuck tells him that too. Even as Junior is crying and hugging us and he no longer fits in our arms because he's taller than us, we tell him, we promise, it'll get better.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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, so we took only what we absolutely needed.

Life in our new house was glorious those first few weeks, when all we had was what we absolutely needed.

If we could have left all the other shit at the old house, we would have. But if we ever hope to sell it, it has to be empty. Obviously. So for the last two months, whenever we have a spare moment, Chuck and I flip a coin to see who gets to make the hour-long pilgrimage back to Mulletville Lite to pack up the car and drive more stuff to our new house.

Every time, it seems, it’s me. And every time I go back, I walk into our old house and am dumbfounded by the amount of stuff that’s still there.

I blame the children.

No, really.

Before they arrived, Chuck and I enjoyed a minimalist lifestyle. When we drank all our booze we recycled the bottles, so they never accumulated. When we finished eating cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we recycled the boxes, so they never accumulated. There was no pre-, during- and post-pregnancy weight gain, so I owned maybe 1 pair of skinny jeans instead of 50. Ditto for Chuck. We slept in one bed, owned 1 blanket, and on Christmas gave each other 1 gift, which we recycled after we finished drinking it.

Then, bam, fucking kids. We SWORE we would never be “those parents” who let unlimited toys and useless crap into our home, but it happened. Grandparents snuck it in. Birthday parties happened. We loosened our stance.


Soon there were wooden trains, wooden train tracks, plastic trains, plastic train tracks, trucks, cars, bath toys, dress up clothes, teepees, marbles, Nerf guns and pellets, baseballs, remote control toys, robots, stuffed animals, figurines, Hot Wheels tracks, sparkly glue, video game consoles and controllers, kites, silly putty, bicycles, sleds, scooters, board games, books, stickers, coloring books, markers, soccer balls, bouncy balls, crayons, paint sets, easels, chalk, LEGOs, blocks, bubbles, lanterns, spy sets.


I’m not only disgusted by the amount of stuff my children have, I’m disgusted by the amount of time I’ve spent organizing and keeping track of it. I’ve probably lost 5 years of my life reuniting LEGO pieces with their sets, or sorting piles of cars and trucks, or chasing marbles down flights of stairs. Now, packing it up, I’m disgusted by the amount of broken plastic shit and useless junk I’m sending to landfills.

It’s not all the children’s fault, of course. Yes, they spent hours on the Island of Sodor and building LEGO sets, but we should have been more firm. And Chuck and I are just as guilty of accumulating stuff we don’t need. Candles, blankets, camping gear, picture frames. You name it, it’s in the basement. It needs to get the hell out of there — so what can’t go to Goodwill or animal shelters or local charities gets schelpped into the car and to our new house.

I won’t lie, though. I like going back to Mulletville Lite. It is kind of like having good break-up sex.

I get to stand in the kitchen, close my eyes and just remember what it was like to live there. I get to spend time in the neighborhood. There’s comfort in seeing the neighbor leaf blowing his leaves, in hearing the neighbor’s kids on their trampoline, in smelling the damp leaves through the windows. For those glorious few moments it’s just me and the old house.

Then I get to leave and be all kissy kissy with my new house.


I know it’s ending soon — we have to sell before our bank account is empty of its last few cents — but for now, I’m relishing these pilgrimages. Even though it’s a 3+ hour commitment. Even though during one ride, a mango-scented diffuser spilled all over the car, and I wanted to gauge my nostrils out.

Even though after stuffing the car full of the toy closet, I started laughing maniacally as I sped down I-91 at 11:30 at night because I felt like a whacked out Santa Claus, the beat-up car filled to the brim with toys, in the middle of October.

“It’s all toys they don’t even know they have!” I told Chuck when I climbed into bed after midnight that night. “Half of the toys are still in the box!”

Then I got an idea. An awful idea. I had a wonderful, awful idea.

“Why don’t we just wrap all the toys up again and give them to the kids for Christmas?” I said.

“Mmmmhmmm,” Chuck mumbled. Even though he was half-asleep, his hand wandered over.

“No more junk this year!” I said. “This is the year we’re the parents we said we wanted to be! This is the year we tell everyone, ‘No more gifts!’”

His hand kept wandering, as if to prove my point. I guess it really is never too late to try.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The things we shout out during sex when we are super stressed and preoccupied



Well, I can't believe it, but Chuck and I actually moved from Mulletville Lite — along with Junior, age 12, Everett, age 8, and Cam, age four. Plus one very old cat and one very grumpy dog.

That's where I've been the last month or so: packing, tripping over boxes, packing more, wondering how in the eff we accumulated so much shit, crying, leaping for joy, and unpacking.

I've also been Googling the snot out of moving topics, like:

Should we really have moved our family? Really?

Will my kids hate me for making them change schools?

When will I know I've made the right decision about ripping my children from everything they know and love?

Can we change our minds and move back?

When will it stop feeling like I'm in someone else's home?

Etc. Etc.

Making the decision to move from my childhood home and leave the neighborhood we had all grown to love was gut wrenching, but I had watched Chuck's health deteriorate the last few years from his long commute. Come Saturday, the man was laid out on the couch from driving 3+ hours a day from Mulletville Lite to New Haven.

When the new asshat governor was voted in and he started pushing for tolls and an increase in the gas tax, well, that was the icing on the cake.

Might as well hand over Chuck's paycheck, and his butt cheeks, to the state of Connecticut.



We'd been looking for a house for two years, but this spring, we really put the search on hyperdrive. We interviewed in other states (me, New Hampshire — too cold — and Chuck, Texas — too far away). We dragged the kids to open houses every Sunday. We chummied up to every realtor in the state, joining every MLS list we could.

During the day, Chuck and I texted each other potential homes with all the fervor and intent of lusty hornballs sharing porn. We scoured realtor.com and trulia.com and zillow.com with shameless abandon. It took MONTHS, and I worried I would shout out "Two car attached garage" during sex instead of "Yes! Yes!"

Thankfully we were so busy looking at houses, we weren't having much sex.

Then, this June, we found it: a house we could afford that was 15 minutes from Chuck's work. More than that, it was a house we could love. We went to see it three times. We brought our parents, then the kids. We put in an offer and bam, it was done.

So that's it. Two months later — exactly one week before school started — we fucking moved. And for the first month, I walked around our new house like, Where the hell are we? I expected someone to come home and ask us what we were doing in their house.

But we are growing into it, little by little.

It's an OLD house, with light switches in weird places and a shitload of cobwebs. For the longest time, if I had to find a switch in the dark, I put on kitchen gloves before I searched along a wall for the switch. I vacuumed up all kinds of leggy creatures. The attic looked like something out of Harry Potter. One night, while I was reading in bed, I watched a spider slowly slink down from the ceiling and land on my page. I contemplated having the kids sleep with earplugs, just in case a spider wandered...


...I can't even say it!

The windows are old, too. Some don't close at the top, which means all kinds of winged things sneak in. I have met every known species of moth. I'm sure, come winter, I'll have Swiss cheese for sweaters because, try as I might, I haven't been able to catch all the bastards. I'm sure, too, we are going to need those holey sweaters when the plastic wrap over the drafty windows stops working. But hey, we have Chuck, and his ass is intact!

So that's where I've been. Settling in. Trying to navigate new roads, enjoying the fact that Chuck is actually home for dinner and bedtime, and unpacking. Dear God, so much unpacking.


I can't lie though. Moving is hard. If you have kids, you have to help them adjust alongside yourself. We've experienced a rainbow of emotions, collectively and in our own spaces. I've thrown back a lot of vodka.

I try not to think about our old house too much. Like how the neighbors would text me if they noticed I left the side door open. I miss them so much my heart hurts. Or how I knew every creak of the stairs, the smell of every approaching season, the scuff marks on every wall, and the way the afternoon light filled the dining room. I watched my neighbors' children grow and vice versa. That house saw new babies come home, nine years of holidays and birthdays, new pets, old pets, snowstorms, hurricanes, flea infestations, Chuck's hemorrhoids...I could go on and on.

That house is part of me. (Like, duh.)

For fun, I went back in time on this blog and reread the post I wrote, nine years ago, about moving into that house. This is it:

Mulletville Lite is rampant with memories. I quiz myself: Would it be better to live somewhere totally new? Or is it preferable to go back to something I know? Does that make me small-minded? Will moving to Mulletville Lite mean my life is a record stuck on the same track of “remembers whens”? What about adventure? Exploration? The unknown?  

It looks like I'm finally going to get some answers to my questions. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Helping your tweenage son navigate puberty, running, Dude Perfect, parallel parking and birthday cake



Junior is going to be 12 this weekend. That makes this blog 11 years old. Happy birthday to me and to he.



I keep looking at my brown-eyed Junior, wondering where my little boy went. How is this man-child the same little boy who used to ask random people if they puffed? Who called big bridges, big bitches? Thomas the Train was long ago replaced by the Transformers, then Harry Potter, then Percy Jackson, then video games, then Dude Perfect, and now memes and YouTube. They’re strung up like Christmas lights in my mind, trailing back to what seems like years ago and yesterday all at the same time.



Looking at Junior, you’d think he was 15. At 5’4”, he is as tall as I am. His feet are bigger than Chuck’s and he constantly wants to show us his leg hair (all four strands). If his voice cracks the slightest bit he’ll ask, “This is puberty, right? Is this it?” As if the Puberty Bunny or fairy can magically bestow this rite of passage on him while he sleeps.



Never one to care about a mirror, Junior now obsesses about his hair and clothes. He has his own hair gel. He firmly closes and locks his bedroom door while he changes, and every morning he emerges from a cloud of AXE body spray and asks, “Too much?” 




He and his friends have their own vernacular. Things are “cringy.” His two younger brothers are easily “triggered.” If they lose their cool Junior mumbles “get wrecked.” 



Speaking of his two younger brothers, Junior isn’t always a willing leader of this little tribe of men. Directives like, “Well, help them become the brothers you want to be around” carry little weight. I have to remind him daily not to speak to 4-year-old Cam like he’s a bad pet (“I told you not to sit on me, Cam! Don’t do it again!”). 



And poor Everett. Once his partner in crime, Everett has been relegated to the land of Cam. Once in a blue moon, Junior will pluck Everett out and play Legos with him or jump on the trampoline, and Everette beams so brightly I swear aliens on other planets can see it. Basking in the glow of Junior’s attention, Everett will do his best to talk about video games or memes with Junior, putting his hand on his arm and calling him “dude.” There’s such admiration there, it breaks my heart that Junior can’t see it. 



As someone who survived being left in the dust by my older step-sister when she grew up but who also left my younger brother in the dust when I grew up, watching it unfold just hurts all around.



But I get it, it’s the ebb and flow.



I don’t always know how to parent this Junior. We don’t always speak the same language. When he was a toddler, we could solve most problems with a lollipop. Now, his problems resemble a real person’s. We can’t solve his problems, nor would we want to. He has to learn how to succeed and how to fail.



We also have to help him make healthy choices, which is excruciatingly painful. Worse than round-the-clock dental work. He’s still a bookworm but we fight daily about screen time, social media and all the things his friends are allowed to do. “Call of Duty, Mom! R rated movies! They can stay up as late as they want! Stay home alone all day!" (I don’t know who all these parents are but I could care less about their parenting. Twelve is not the new 17.)



And hormones! He is moody AF. One minute he’s rowdy and laughing; the next he’s scowling and huffing, telling me I just don’t get it. Me? Not get it? But I’m hip! I’m in the know.



Ok, no, no, I’m not. I don’t know half the celebrities out there. 


I like to be in bed by 9:30. I now own more comfortable clothes than not.

Despite the fluctuations in temperament, Junior’s quickly becoming a guy friend I’m happy to be around. He makes me laugh! The other day, after I parallel parked our beastly truck, the woman next to us got out of her car and said to me, “You did an amazing job parking that truck. You go girl!”



Now, any time I make a pronouncement Junior clasps his hands and shrieks, “You go girl!”



Like, if I tell everyone I tried a new recipe for dinner, I get, “You go girl!” Or if I tell Chuck I finished a big project before the deadline, there’s Junior in his high-pitched voice: “You go girl!”




Just one last thing in this little ode to Junior...


Junior has always been a Great Dane who would rather be a lapdog, and so I have to keep him moving. I take him on nightly walks/runs with me, and he complains the whole time, dramatically holding his rib cage and wailing about his aches and pains. Kind of like how he is when he is sick. 



The other night, eager to have some peace and quiet, I let him skip the last half of our walk and run home alone. It felt so good to be in my own company, I decided to run two laps around the track by our house. The sun was setting as I finally made my way home, and I ran into some neighbors who were also on a walk.


“Oh good,” they said, “you’re okay.”



“Of course,” I said. “Is something wrong?”



“We ran into Junior,” they said. “He asked us to keep an eye out for you. He said you were alone.”



When I got home, Junior was in the bathroom. “He’s been worried,” Chuck told me. “He knew you were running without your phone on you.”



When Junior heard me coming up the stairs, he burst out of the bathroom and threw his arms around me.

“I was worried about you!” he said. Thrust into his sweaty, pubescent armpit, complete with its three hairs and thick layer of AXE, I had never felt more loved.

"I went around the track twice," I said. "That's why I'm late."

“You go girl,” he said.

Happy birthday, Junior. I love you more than a million universes.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I put stuff up my kids' noses, but it's really quite brilliant and it goes well with celery

I'm still moisturizing, you know. Still trying to get that lovin' feeling from Josie Maran's pure argan oil. I have to be honest, it's a pity fuck at this point. Slathering it on, waiting...hoping...waiting...

Thank the Heavens I have my three children to distract me from my all-consuming skincare regime.

Take this morning. Junior, now almost 12, woke up at 5:45 a.m. and started whimpering, "Help me" from the bathroom. He's in the tweenager stage, where things that happen in the bathroom are TOP SECRET and must take place behind closed and locked doors, so I was surprised he was calling for me.

When I went in, it looked like a crime scene. His bloody nose had exploded all over the bathroom — the walls, the floor, the cabinet. He hung his head over the sink and asked me for help.

I was half-awake and grouchy. Cleaning up someone else's bodily fluids isn't my favorite way to start the day.

"You know what I'm going to suggest, right?" I said.

"I'm not using one of those!" he grumbled. "I know what they're really for!"

"They're perfect and you know it," I shot back.

He reached for the toilet paper roll, grabbed a wad of paper, and tried to sop up the blood. But because we are cheap and enjoy wiping our butts with sandpaper, we have industrial grade toilet paper, and the absorbancy was like...like trying to catch spilled water with a broom.

"Fine! I'll use one! Just make it stop!" he yelled.

I reached into the bathroom cabinet and pulled out this:


Aha! Right?

If you think about it, tampons are the perfect solution to nosebleeds. They fit easily inside your nose. They're absorbent. They have a string, so if you stick one too far up inside your nose you can easily pull it out. And, if your kids get nosebleeds a lot, like mine do, it saves on paper towel, toilet paper and tissue consumption. One tampon is equivalent to like three boxes of tissues.

Good for moms and the planet!

If you're going to go this route for nosebleeds, I recommend a few things. First, use practical terminology when you introduce them. The first few times I presented the tampons to Junior, at age seven or so, I called them "nose-bleed stoppers." As in, "Gee, Junior, another nose bleed? The doctor recommended these awesome nose-bleed stoppers. Want to try one?"

(He was suspicious, but soon came to see their absorbent prowess.)

Second, start your kids off young, before they go to health class and learn about human anatomy. That's what killed it for me: the damn middle school teachers who decided it was time for everyone to learn about the human body and puberty. The nerve. I mean, Everett, my eight year old, still thinks I have two butts. And I intend to keep it that way.

Third, be prepared for some backlash at some point — namely right after middle school health class comes along. I'll never forget when Junior stormed into my room in sixth grade and said, "I know what you put in my nose!"

"Do you mean the nose-bleed stoppers?" I'd asked innocently.

"Mom! That's not what they are!"

So ok, Junior was mildly pissed at me for awhile, but I take this morning's incident and Junior's acquiescence as proof positive that this parenting hack is sheer brilliance. I mean come on, these nose-bleed stoppers are so absorbent your child can snack his way through a bloody nose. 


Was that too much? 

Food + bloody noses + tampons?

Yah, ew, maybe.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

I had to know: Is it worth the orgasm?

I have a fear of QVC, and it's a little conspiracy theory-ish. Are you ready? There's a small part of me that believes the QVC spokespeople are all bots with little chips that send waves to your brain and that if you linger on the station for just a moment too long, they zap into your brain and convince you to buy shit you normally wouldn't.

Don't believe me? I have two words for you: Quacker Factory.



Over the years I have succumb to a few impulse purchases. There was the purple eyeshadow incident. A few IT cosmetics here and there (I love their waterproof under-eye concealer — handy because I snorkel constantly in Connecticut and still want to look perdy — but their light powder concealer makes me look like Data from Star Trek). Some Clarks shoes. A Total Home Gym after I'd been drinking...


Anyway. I've been patting myself on the back for a while now because even though I've watched Josie Maran peddle her pure argan oil products with orgasmic enthusiasm — puuure, argan oil, ooooooooo yeeesss — as she slathers herself with oily, reckless abandon, I have resisted buying them.

Take that, bots!

Alas, I have a confession. A few weeks ago I succumbed to Ms. Maran. I was flipping past QVC and I lingered too long on the segment for the 8-pack of Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter in assorted scents for $70. Mesmerized by all the promises of dewy, goddess-like skin and Maran's scintillating repetition of the word "juicy," I texted my friend and said "Should I?" and she wrote back "YOU WILL LOVE IT."

I hit the purchase button, and a week later it arrived (it's not missing one, I took one out).



Now I'm here to tell you, from the other side of I've Tried It-ville, about my experience so that I may help you, if you're vacillating and unsure, like I was, about this puuure, argan oil body butter. Is it worth it?

Yes and no.

No because...

... it's just a moisturizer. Really, it is.

It's substantial, but not goopy, and it smells kind of wonky, especially the Lilac. As in, "Hi Grammie!" The Milk and Honey scent is okay. It's a sugar-frenzied smell that wavers somewhere between baked cookies and frosting on crack. I now understand why so many people prefer the Unscented. 

The body butter is light and whipped all right. So much so that big cavernous holes exist in the tub. And it doesn't instantly absorb unless, maybe, you apply a pea-sized amount, which seems to go against Maran's mantra of slather, baby, slather until you shine like the top of the Chrysler Building!



I'm disappointed to find that I don't feel decadent and amazing putting it on, like Josie promised — Ooooh, gawd, yeeesss it's sooooo luxurious — instead I just feel like I'm putting on moisturizer. Maybe I didn't drink enough first. Maybe you have to be halfway to shit-hammered to enjoy spending 30 minutes rubbing Juicy Pear onto your skin. But I read the instructions, and there's no mention of vodka. They just say to put it on when your skin is dry — no shit, it really says that:


I've been using the body butter for a week and my skin doesn't glow, and it doesn't feel buttery soft. It just doesn't feel dry. The same results are easily attainable by Curel or Nivea, but I guess if you buy chemical laden creams you can't feel good about helping to sustain all the Moroccan women who hand peel the argan fruit and grind the nuts to tease out the puuure, argan oil.

There's always a trade off.

Price-wise, it was a decent buy, so I guess there's your yes to buy it. Seventy dollars for eight 4-ounce tubs is about $8.75 per tub, which is sort of / kind of / not really okay considering most commercial brands retail for upwards of $10. And Maran promises it has a shelf life of forever, so it looks like I'll be body buttering myself into my eighties — slathering in between my wrinkly folds, culling out my inner, yet senile, goddess.

I'll save the Lilac tub for then.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

From night lights to Fortnite: I need like 10,000 more tissues please



I swear, watching your kids grow up is so fucking hard.

I thought it would be easier because Chuck and I are cool and hip, despite the fact that 50 is quickly encroaching.* We strike that perfect balance of discipline and freedom. We don't yell — a lot — and we let the kids know 50 million times a day that lines of communication are open.

We are the parents who say, "You can tell us anything." And we mean it.

(And we have learned many disturbing things about body hair and anatomical exploration fueled by innocent curiosity — thankfully only involving one body at a time.)

Then there we were last night at Junior's chorus concert. It was over, and everyone was congregating in the foyer. Junior saw his two best friends and picked up the pace. I asked him to slow down so we could get pictures with his brothers and grandparents.

"But my friends are going to leave," he said.

"But you're all dressed up, and I want to get a picture of you and your brothers."

He looked at Everett and Cam and scowled. Everett, at eight, is still happy playing make-believe and coloring. He has become obnoxiously uncool to Junior. Cam, who is four and stubborn and obstinate and independent and pushy and forthright and doesn't acquiesce to anything, throws a somewhat tightly wound Junior into high alert.

"Do I have to?" he sighed heavily.

"Just a few."

As I clicked away, Junior looked downright morose. Everett and Cam bickered on either side of him over a stuffed monkey and who was going to hold it.

"Guys!" Junior yelled impatiently. "STOP!"

I adopted the tone of displeasure.

"BOYS!" I yelled.

I just wanted a nice picture. JUST ONE NICE PICTURE HOW HARD CAN THAT BE, GUYS?

By the time we were done, Junior's friends and parents were starting to disband. Thankfully one of the mothers got a photo of the three friends and shared it with me. When I looked at it — shocker — Junior was beaming.

Still, I didn't put two and two together.

DUH.

"Why do you still look so blue?" I asked Junior. "You got to see your friends. We even got a picture!"

Then, at 2 a.m., as I lie awake strung out on Sudafed for my allergies, I thought back to my own middle school years. As much as I remembered my parents, what I remembered more was my friends.

DUH.

I heard myself from earlier that night, telling Junior not to rush to his friends — not to leave us behind. I heard myself scolding him for not staying with his brothers for the perfect picture when the truth is, I have a million pictures of the three of them together.

It's not about him and them anymore. It's about him and his friends, and this is just the beginning of him leaving them, and us, behind.

Hopefully he'll keep coming back.

But man, that day you walk into their bedroom and find their favorite stuffed animal on a ledge instead of in their bed? The one that is ratty from being covered in baby slime and spit-up, that's been washed and dried so many times its fur is knotted? The one that used to go on sleepovers and cause sheer panic if its location was unknown?

That, uh, was a tear jerker moment.  


I know it's normal. I know it's part of the cycle of life. I just didn't think it would be this hard. I will say this: After years of feeling wretched guilt that the boys just wanted me — I used to have to hide behind the couch so Junior wouldn't see me — it is sweet restitution to see Junior seek out Chuck for advice, company, male camaraderie — and for video gaming advice.

(That's the other thing I didn't think would be this hard. %^&#%^@*^*@%^ video games. Fucking Fortnite. Can I get an amen?)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Shoes every mom should have. No, really, they should come home with the free formula samples in the hospital bag

I still want these shoes. I've wanted them so badly for so long, ever since I saw them in Vogue. I want to wear them at the bus stop. I want to wear them to school functions. I want to wear them to the park. I want to wear them all day and all night because to me, they are the embodiment of motherhood: You have got to shake your shit the entire ride —and fast — or it will eat you alive.

Perhaps I'm being extreme. Forgive me. I have three sons and we never sit down. Ever. Shoes with flames just makes sense to me. Plus, I've had two kids home sick this week with the flu and I'm high on Dude Perfect fumes. (This shoe? Would it survive a shoe flip? A drone launch through a basketball hoop 50 yards away? Probably.) You can't watch Dude Perfect 24/7 and not feel like jumping up and running the eff around.

See, I am a runner! I told you!

If I owned these shoes I would never give them up. If I'd been wearing these shoes while I worked at Mulletville Corp, and my boss wanted to borrow them I would have said no. Hell no.

Chuck, if you're still reading this blog, which you assured me you are, I NEED THESE SHOES for Mother's Day. I can wear them in my teepee. I can wear them to bed. Just the shoes! Do you get what I'm saying? You can call me Rocket Man, er, Woman.

Please?!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Taking the rum out of running

Did I mention I've started to run? Not at night. And not away from home. But real, legit running. In fact, after a month of walking and running (I guess, ralking), I can almost make it all the way around the track at the town's park.

If there were any attractive men in this town — other than my luscious husband Chuck — I'd be able to complete the loop no problem because as we all know (us runners anyway, wink, wink) all it takes is one attractive person on the sidelines to keep you moving.



The best part of running, of course, is bragging to everyone about how you do. Every chance I get, I remind Chuck that I'm going to outlive him by 50 years because of my newfound cardiovascular prowess. He loves it.

"Shut up," he says. (After 20 years of co-habitation, I know this really means "I admire and worship you.")

How do I love running? Let me count the ways. I love how running makes the extra fat on my ass flop in the wind. I love how my eyeballs struggle to focus as my feet pound the pavement. I love how much more agile I feel chasing my three sons around the house, and up to the park, and up the stairs, and through malls and state parks.

Run, run, run!

Most of all, I love how I can spontaneously decide to go for a run, even if circumstances aren't quite ideal.

Case in point: this Saturday. Chuck had a buddy over, and he loaded us up on Dark and Stormies. If you've never had one before, it's a drink concocted of dark rum and ginger beer. It's sweet, peppy and goes down way too easily with French Toast and bacon. Bonus: all that sugar makes you extra feisty. So feisty, in fact, you don't realize you're sauced until it's way too late.

(So, so late.)

"I can't parent," I told Chuck after I'd slugged down a few. "The room is spinning."

Chuck, who has the constitution of 10 cows on steroids, said breezily, "I noticed."

In my sugar-laden, intoxicated blur I had a brilliant idea. "I'll run now!" I told him. "I'll run this off."

Before he could say boo, I raced outside and started down the street. I was wearing Junior's Lego Crocs and I couldn't figure out how to get the hood of my sweatshirt off my head, but I was on a mission. I made it to a stop sign, then rounded the corner up a hill. That's when my brain started to pound. Or was it my feet?

I chuffed though, and I puffed, like a good little engine from the Island of Sodor — "Mrs. Mullet is ra-acing, raacing so she'll barf" — until I got halfway up the hill and was struck by how I must look to my neighbors: a hooded, hunched runner in Crocs, zigzagging my way up the hill to Vomitville.

"This is crazy!" I slurred to no one. I was out of breath, dizzy, and my legs felt like rubber.

I turned and started the slow jog back. The jog of shame. The bounce of blame. Whatever you call it, it sucked. When I finally got home, I crawled through the door, past Chuck and his friend — who knew enough not to ask how my run went — and passed out on my bedroom floor.

"Back so soon?" Chuck said, peeking his head in.

"Shut up," I moaned. (After 20 years of co-habitation, he knows this really means "shut up.")

When I woke up the next morning, the cotton rope from my sweatshirt hood had left a snake-like imprint on my left cheek, my chin was crusty with drool, and my big toes had big blisters.

"How's it going?" Chuck asked.

I showed him my toes.



"Perils of running," I said, shrugging. "I'll be back out in no time." Then I put my face in the waste pan and threw up. He shut the door behind him, leaving me alone with my blisters and my thoughts, namely Thank God it's Sunday and not Monday, thank God it's Sunday and not Monday.

Will I drunk-run again? Probably not. And it'll be awhile before I touch dark rum. I'd like to write more but that snaggly image above of the half-painted toenail and nasty blister is making me gag, so if you'll forgive me I'm going to — yes! you guessed it! — RUN.

Ew. Toes.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The wheels on the bus...just don't go 'round and 'round some days



"Sure, your son can come over tomorrow morning," I told my neighbor. Her son Dylan rides the elementary school bus with my son, Everett, and she sometimes needs to leave for work before the bus comes. On mornings Dylan doesn't come over, I drive Everett and his brother Cam to the elementary school, where they're both enrolled.

"I'm working from home tomorrow," I said. "It'll be an easy day for me."

(Universe: 'Easy,' you say? Mwahaahahah.)

At 7:30 a.m. the next morning, Dylan knocked on our door.

"Instead of taking the bus," I asked him, "do you want to ride with me? It'll give us extra time for breakfast." He nodded. At 8:15 a.m. we piled into the car.

"Will we have enough time?" Dylan asked. "The bus line ends at 8:20."

"Of course," I assured him.

Five minutes later Dylan alerted me that the bus line had ended.

"You can walk in with us through the pre-school entrance," I said breezily. Why is this kid so fixated on the bus line, I wondered.



We arrived at the elementary school and, like every morning, I encouraged everyone MULTIPLE TIMES to exit the car. It was now 8:25. We were on the verge of late. Everyone climbed out but Dylan. What is up with him this morning, I wondered. I waved to him from the car. "Come on! We're here."

He got out of the car but didn't bring his backpack.

"Honey," I said, "don't you need your books?"

"Why?" he asked.

Aggghh! "BECAUSE WE'RE LATE AND NOW WE'RE HERE."

He looked at me like I was crazy, but got his bag.

"Why weren't you going to bring your bag in?" I asked.

"Because I don't go to school here!"

What? 

"Yah, I'm a grade higher than Everett," he said. "I go to the intermediate school."

I smacked my forehead. Spectacular.

As I walked Cam to his pre-school class, with Dylan trailing behind me, some of Dylan's former teachers recognized him and said hello. They looked at me — the woman who wasn't his mother — quizzically.

"Long story," I said with a big smile.

After I'd dropped off Cam I drove Dylan to his school. "I wonder if they'll let me sign you in tardy if I'm not your parent?" I wondered aloud. He shrugged his shoulders.

Luckily they did — after his mother confirmed via phone I hadn't abducted him for the morning. But it was now 8:45 a.m. and I needed to be back home for a 9 a.m. conference call. I jumped into the car and turned the key and...nothing. Then, the wheel locked.


I Googled "locked wheel" and uncovered a trick for unlocking it so I could get it out of Park. As I did so, the car rolled backwards into the parking lot, which is also the bus lane. I slammed on the brakes but it was too late: the car was in the middle of the lot.

Aggghh!
Aggghh!
Aggghh!  

At first, people trying to leave thought I was still in the act of pulling out of a spot, so they waited patiently. Then they honked. I waved them past. Then they got creative about going around me.

I called Chuck, who, by some act of God, was at home feeling sick and therefore still able to come to the rescue.

"Didn't you leave an hour ago?" he asked.

"THAT ISN'T IMPORTANT!" I cried. "I am in the middle of the parking lot. A line is forming. A long line."



"I'll be right there," he sighed.

Ten minutes later, he showed up. As I stood outside waiting, I shrugged apologetically to the people in their cars and made stupid, clownish faces of contrition. Most people ignored me or worse, glared. Suddenly, our car bellowed to attention, and Chuck pulled it back into a spot.

"What the FUCK did you do that I couldn't?" I asked him when he got out.

"Don't turn the wheel so much when you park," he said. "I have to get to work." He kissed me on the cheek and drove off.

I looked at my phone: 8:59 a.m. I jumped in the car and drove 100 mph home, raced onto my computer and dialed into the conference call. I tried to temper my heavy breathing by pinching my leg until it hurt a little.

"Good morning, Mrs. Mullet!" Mrs. Heckenspleck said. "You're just in time."

"GREAT!" I said.

"And how is your morning so far?"

"GREAT!" I said. "Just great."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting: One woman's triumphant journey with a fork*

This year is different, and I've been trying to figure out the why and how of it — the moment of change, if you will — because honestly, I've been wishing for things to be different for awhile now (e.g., I want to move, I want to change jobs, etc.).

Although my last post was ripe with self-pity ("Woe is me, my kid is sick on my birthday"), I think the moment of change started there, and that it had everything to do with my cake.

See, usually on your birthday, you have to eat dinner before you have your cake. You have to add 20 minutes for digestion before someone presents you with a cake lit with candles. Then you have to wait for someone or a group of people to sing to you. Clap, clap.

Next, you blow out the candles and the cake is whisked away to be cut and re-presented to you in a square (depending on how many people are at your gathering, this could take two to 30 minutes). If you have children, there's dissent about who got the biggest piece, who got the first piece, etc. Finally, if your cake is missing silverware, you need to find a fork. And if you have a toddler, he or she will have inhaled his or her piece and be begging you to share yours just as you're about to dig in.



That's like two hours of prep time and waiting for a piece of cake — precious time spent at the hands of others. In a nutshell: There's cake protocol, and you're not in charge of any of it even though it's supposed to be YOUR day. 

This year, though, I got astride that cake and rode it like a cowgirl. Dinner first? Nope. Singing to me? Nope. Clapping? Not a peep. Candles? Not a one. I didn't want anyone spitting their germs on it. Waiting? Nope. Cutting? Hell yah, I sliced into that bad boy and shoveled it into my mouth. In fact, over the course of the next few days, I ate the entire cake without sharing a damn crumb with anyone.

I cut through — pun intended — all the pomp and circumstance and took what I wanted and I swear, things have been different ever since.

For one, I started a new freelance job. The best part is that they had to postpone their holiday party to early January, so I got to attend and meet the whole crew. The people are fantastic. I haven't been to a cheery office holiday party in like 20 years. Morale was so low at Mulletville Corp, I'd forgotten what it felt like to be around a functional group of celebratory people. Bonus: There was more cake.



We finally knocked down walls in our home. We're five people in a 1,400 square foot house, plus a large dog and plump cat. After seven years of living here, I can finally open the refrigerator during dinner without having to ask someone to slide their chair over. Ditto for opening the oven.

We went to Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg, Mass., for the weekend because after being sick, dealing with the gray of winter, and sanding and taping walls everyone needed a dose of fun. It was expensive as fuck, even after Groupon and coupons, but my middle kid wore his water park bracelet for two weeks after we got home. (I'll post more about it later.)


Finally — and this is the most important part of how this year is different — I started writing a book. I'm 56,000 words into it, which is the farthest I've ever gotten (and a big reason why I haven't been on here as much). I've been procrastinating about this for decades. No more.

So there you have it. This year is different. Yee-fucking-haw. If you've been wishing for the same I highly recommend that on your birthday, you have someone buy you a cake (for some reason, it's not the same if you buy the cake yourself) and then, when no one's looking, you dive into that mother effer. Screw protocol. Screw waiting. Life is short. Just eat your damn cake.

*No, that is not the actual title of the book I am currently working on, but I really kind of like it.

Friday, January 4, 2019

I may just eat the whole damn cake

Well, it's that time of year again, aka, my birthday.

Last year I compiled a list of my birthdays and noted how many of my children were sick on each birthday. I really only did that so someday, when my children start showing me convalescence home pamphlets and dropping hints, I can pull up my handy list and tell them to go to hell.

This year, in a bout of optimism I haven't experienced since I was a virgin, I made plans for me and Chuck to spend the day at a local spa. It wouldn't cost a damn cent thanks to a mountain of spa gift certificates I've amassed since 2007, the year Junior was born (and consequently, the time in my life people started assuming I was a stressed out mother and needed a day at the spa).

Things were looking so good! I booked the sitter. I walked around all day with a kick in my step. My sweet mother, who is under the weather, dropped me off a cake and said, "You look happier than I've seen you in awhile!" Then she started hacking and excused herself.

But, children. They pick their noses and sneeze on each other and lick each other's faces. They are vile creatures. No sooner was Everett was off the bus than he said, "I don't feel well." His face went white. He asked for the puke pan.

He has a fever.

So I canceled our spa reservations. While I was waiting for Chuck to get home from work, I opened up my pretty birthday cake and cut out a huge ass piece.



And ate it for dinner. No lit candles to blow out (i.e., no germs). No singing aloud (i.e., no germs). Just face feeding and me.

I may just have invented a new tradition.

Make laundry fun — and punishable

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