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."

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 brow...