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.

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. 


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.




"Cherry tomatoes?"


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.

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,...