Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's kind of cute how Junior told Chuck, "I had a meltdown at Chili's." Kind of

Tonight I called my good friend D&W (aka Lisa) and asked if she and her two kids (ages three and oneish) wanted to meet me and Junior for dinner.

“Where should we go?” we wondered. We agreed on Chili’s. “They’re so kid friendly!” we giggled. “We’re such moms!” we laughed.

God, we were so naïve. Rather, I was so naïve. Junior had been a little off all day. He’d slept late and wanted to curl up in front of Curious George instead of play. The babysitter said he did fine during the day, but after she left Junior was still off. He was having meltdowns over small things. I know that in toddlerdome—where the winds are bipolar and rational behavior is scarce—that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong, but I should have known.

Dinner was ok, except for a toothy waitress who tried to push the chocolate milk even though Lisa said, “WHITE milk, please. WHITE.” We laughed about Hal the talking pickle, or whatever the hell he was, on the kid’s menu. We said, “Please sit down the right way” to our children ten thousand times. We actually managed five minutes of adult conversation.

We made it.

Then, the bathroom. If I could go back in time, I would run to the car with Junior instead of heading into The Bowels of Chaos.

Junior started to unravel at the bathroom entrances. He didn’t want to go into the women’s room; he wanted to go into the men’s. He wanted to go the bathroom before me. He didn’t want to go at all. He had to go. He didn’t.

After three Sprites, I did have to go. I really fricken did.

Now, while Junior and I were in the stall debating the line-up for emptying our bladders, another mom walked in with her two toddlers. She took the stall between Lisa and me. She was not a happy mom.

“Hands off the seat! Hands out of your mouth! Sit down! Stand up! You lousy kid! Get down! You’re crap!”

When I emerged from the stall with Junior, Lisa clapped her hand over her mouth and said, “Jesus, I knew that wasn’t you in there, but for a minute I was about to say, ‘Mrs. Mullet, take it easy’.”

Then the woman came out.

“Bathroom time sucks!” she growled.

And then we all saw it: the toddler stool.

Waiting for little feet to climb aboard so little hands could wash their own, well, hands. Lisa’s daughter climbed up. Junior was next. The woman told her kids they were after Junior. Grunting noises like those of restless, herded cattle came from behind me. We were three women watching Lisa’s daughter push the soap dispenser. Slooooowly. Carefully. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Everyone wanted the stool.

Dear God, why was there only one stool?

Then it was Junior’s turn. He climbed up. And then…

…He wanted to wash his hands. He didn’t. He did. He didn’t. He did HE DID HE DID WANT TO WASH HIS HANDS! No he didn’t! He DID NOT WANT TO WASH HIS HANDS.

The woman pushed her kids closer.

“Junior,” I said calmly, “if you’re not going to wash your hands, it’s time for someone else’s turn.”

He wanted to wash his hands. He didn’t. He did. He didn’t. He did HE DID HE DID WANT TO WASH HIS HANDS! No he didn’t! He DID NOT WANT TO WASH HIS HANDS.

More grunting and stampeding.

I picked him up. “We have to go, sweetie.”

That’s when it all went to shit. As I carried Junior out of Chili’s, he screamed, “I want to wash my hands! I want to wash my hands! I want to wash my hands!”

I kept my eyes on Lisa, my guiding light. People turned and stared. Pointed and whispered. I smiled so tightly my lips cracked.

We made it to the car, but it only got worse. Junior did want to say goodbye to Lisa’s kids; then he didn’t. I tried to hug him and calm him down but he was inconsolable. He was screaming, crying and flailing. I was actually scared.

“I want to wash my hands!" he cried. "I want to wash my hands! I want to wash my hands!”

Of course the young, childless couple in the car next to me chose to leave then as well. As they pulled out they shook their heads in that Aren’t you glad we haven’t procreated like these stupid assholes? kind of way.

Funny thing is, I used to think that way too when I saw kids having meltdowns. I used to think, Kids? Never! Now I love it so much I’m having another.

Junior and I finally made it home, and he finally calmed down. I gave him a bath and obsessively texted Lisa: “Is this normal? Have your kids done this? Are you sure this is normal?”

See, until today, Junior hasn’t really had a terrible meltdown. He’s almost three; I thought I was out of the woods. I thought I was a fabulous mother who could smugly—and privately—say, “My kid doesn’t do that.” Even better, I thought that if Junior ever did have a meltdown in public I’d look around and laugh and say, “Ha! You’ve all been where I’ve been. Now it’s my turn! You actually owe me!”

Ha is right. This mother thing? Humbling. In that bring-you-to-your-knees kind of way.

I'm so grateful for Lisa, probably more than she realizes. I'm grateful that Junior is sleeping peacefully. I'm also grateful because tomorrow is a new day, and I have one more parenting experience under my belt.

I'm going to need it. In a household full of boys.

Monday, June 28, 2010

As usual, things started off well in Mulletville. Then I heard the word vagina used as a verb

On Friday, I went for another ultrasound. Because of my “advanced maternal age” (35 years and 6 months, thank you very much), I had to go to a specialist in Mulletville.

Things started off on the right foot. They had a walker and a chilled Ensure waiting for me. Then the doctor opened the door. She was dressed in platform shoes and a Go-Go dress, like this

“Hi, sweetie!” she said.

I looked around. Surely she could not be talking to me. One cannot be dubbed “advanced” and referred to as “sweetie.” The terms are diametrically opposed. Kind of like “happy” and “Mulletville” are.

She ushered me into the exam room. Then she roller-derbied the shit out of my stomach.

“This kid is stubborn!” she shouted. “It won’t move!” She plugged in the audio. “Oh, good. We have a heartbeat.”

Nothing like shooting a lightening bolt of fear into a women who’s had a miscarriage. I started to hate her.

She called for reinforcements—I thought to help navigate the machine but instead she wanted to bitch about her job. “Where’d Dr. X go this afternoon? Golfing?” she growled to Nurse A. “And when do we get paid? I don’t know if I can make it on this salary—”

“—Excuse me,” I mumbled. “Could you pay attention? You’re rolling over my breast, not my stomach.”

“Sorry, honey!”

Before I tell you what happened next, I need to tell you a quick side story. When I was in high school, there was a boy whose last name was Vaginitis or Vagisnuffleupagus—something awful like that—so his friends gave him the nickname “Vag.”

Nothing beat hearing “Yo, Vag! VAG!” as you made your way to class. Ironically, his social standing actually increased, perhaps because people assumed that someone nicknamed Vag was getting laid a lot. Some days I actually envied his nickname. People thought I was Amish. Being called Vag might have been good for me, too.

Or maybe not. Maybe they would have assumed I had elephantiasis of the labia.

Anyway, after turning my stomach black and blue without achieving the results she was looking for, the doctor wiped her brow and said, “Hike up your skirt, hon. I’m going to have to vag you.” (As in vaginal ultrasound me. For any of Chuck’s male friends who might be reading this, I’m sorry if you just threw up your lunch.)

And of course, after I thought, “Ewwww. Vag me?”, I thought of good ole Vag. I wondered where he was. How he was doing. I thought about how he’s my friend on Facebook, and I wondered if he’d appreciate a message:

“Funniest thing, Vag! I know we haven’t spoken in 16 years, but I was lying in the Mulletville OB-GYN and the Go-Go doctor turned to me and said...”

Heh. Facebook.

After a grueling internal ultrasound (during which the doctor invited someone else in— I’d forgotten how pregnancy shreds you of any decency), she finally got the picture she was looking for. She told me, based on her preliminary findings, that she wasn’t going to red flag my child as being a four-headed, half-gecko, half-orangutan Frankenstein baby. She wouldn’t tell me everything looked good, just that she wasn’t going to red flag it.

At that point I was ready to whack her over the head with the vag wand. Then she said, “Do you want to know the sex?”

My heart skipped a beat. I started to sweat. My dentures clacked with excitement. “Yes!”

“It’s a...”

Oops, gotta run. Vag just emailed me back. He finally wants to sign my yearbook!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why, yes. I do reek. And I'll gladly tell you more about it

I chickened out on Monday. I canceled my meeting to tell my boss about my bun. Chuck and my friends assured me I didn’t look pregnant yet—just fat—so I figured I’d wait a little longer. Then, Wednesday, Chuck said, “Wow, you’re really showing.”

“Which is it? Am I fat or pregnant?” I barked.


So in I went this morning to tell her.

She took the news well, much better than I’d anticipated. I finally could let my bump hang free and stop walking backwards. I was about to jump on the chair and sing "The hills are alive" when she asked the question I’ve been hearing a lot lately: “Was this planned?”

Ex-fricken-scuse me?

The question stops me every time. Was this what? You want to know whether Chuck and I knowingly boinked with or without using protection? Why?

It’s this pregnancy’s question du jour—and people aren’t subtle about asking. My cousin’s congratulatory email actually went like this: “Yipee! I’m assuming this was planned?”

Assume away, bitch.

I mean, really.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the motives of these nosy people. Maybe they see life as one big Lifetime movie? Maybe if I say, “No, the baby wasn’t planned,” they enjoy imagining that Chuck and I were in the throes of passion and that Chuck suddenly screamed, “Dear God, no! Your Nuva Ring just bounced off the chandelier! What will we do if we have to bring another child into this stable, loving home? How could this have happened to us, a happily married monogamous couple?”

Then they imagine Chuck being really mean to me while I bake pies at a dusty old diner and mac on my married gynecologist.

Oh wait, that was Waitress.

I was about to dedicate more time tonight to my psychological investigation (there’s nothing on TV and what else is there to do in Mulletville on a humid Thursday night) but a foul, rancid smell has been distracting me. A rodent—or one of Chuck’s shoes—has died behind an upstairs wall. No matter what I spray or what ridiculous contraption I plug into the wall to spread its flowery, morning fresh douchy goodness, the smell won’t go away.

It's downright foul.

But. I’d rather have people sniff me and ask why I smell like decomposing mouse than the Dreaded Question. That’s how much I hate it.

What about you? What pregnancy question do you/did you hate with a passion? If you don't have children, what question do you hate, in general?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Personally, I can't get enough of dads: hot dads, short dads, skinny dads, geeky dads. You name it. Mmm, mmm, mmm, how I love me some dads

When I was nine and my brother Ted was two, my parents divorced. I stayed with my father; my brother went with my mother. It was a tremendously sad period in my life (don’t worry, Ted, I won’t tell the commuter parking lot stories), but I learned a lot about my father during the years that I lived with him.

I learned that fathers cry, too. I learned that when I was sick, my father could play nurse just as well as my mother. He’d stay home from work and concoct silly citrus drinks. He understood how to apply a cold compress. He let me watch Three’s Company and Love Boat.

In those years, I learned I could trust my father to take care of me.

Junior’s learning the same lesson about his own father, thankfully under different circumstances. With Chuck home full-time, Junior knows that Chuck can remove slivers and make popsicles and comfort him when he’s having a bad day. Chuck's gotten so adept at parenting, we often have wipe-downs. Junior still prefers barfing on me, but when I look back on this time in my life, I know I will hold dear the trust and bond that have grown between them.

I thought about this a lot on Father’s Day. I thought about what a beautiful gift fathers can be. I’m sorry for those who were taken away from us too soon. And I’m sorry for those who choose not to be part of their children’s lives.

I’m also sorry for the recent article “Are Fathers Necessary?” by Pamela Paul. It’s an insult to fathers everywhere, especially the line “The bad news for Dad is that despite common perception, there’s nothing objectively essential about his contribution.”

I beg to differ. Bitch.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The banana blow-out

So, Chuck and I had a lovely anniversary dinner at Mohegan Sun's Tuscany. Even with my limited cooking ability I could have made a better fettuccine with bacon and green peas (salt shaker, anyone?), and the waitress forgot about us for an hour, but that's neither here nor there. I was dining with my amour.


And he sat through the whole dinner and didn't need crayons or juice with a straw and he didn't want to sit on my lap and stick his fingers in my food!

There was a banana foster thingamabob on the dessert menu, but Chuck told me he doesn't actually like bananas.

That kind of soured the edible banana negligee I had waiting at home (next post: how to make lingerie with fruit. You heard it here first!).

I guess there's always next year. The traditional gift is wood. Wooden underwear? A wooden trapeze? The possibilities are endless.

One of the best parts of the night was that I could let me bump hang free. I suck it in all day at work and cover it up with jean jackets and large purses (I've also been walking like a hunchback), so it felt nice to let it flap in the wind. Seriously, I felt like a freak with an extra appendage who was finally able to dangle it in public, without my co-workers pointing and exclaiming, "She's pregnant again?!"

I'm telling my boss on Monday.


Happy weekend.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I have high hopes for tonight's banana extravaganza

Happy Anniversary, Chuck. Four years ago tomorrow you made an honest woman out of me, which was no easy feat.

Last year, we celebrated our love with leathermmm, leather—this year it's supposed to be fruit or flowers.

I don't know who's making these official lists, but if I want to commemorate my love for you with bananas and Shasta Daisies, by hell I'm going to do it.

I'm looking forward to our evening out tonight (no, not at Squirt's). I hope I don't throw up during dinner and that I can stay up past 8:30 p.m. I know you do, too. After all these years together, it's nice to know that even if I do puke and pass out, you'll be there for me.

Just like on our first date.

Thanks for being the kind, patient man you are. Thanks for being such a great father. Thanks, too, for helping out more around the house. That day you vacuumed without me asking you to was, like, one of the highlights of my life.

Seriously, I made it my Facebook status.

I know you're still kind of bummed that I haven't legally changed my name, but until people stop saying "Are you serious? That's really your last name?" to you, I'm going to have my reservations. Still, I'm wavering.

(Before I was just pretending to.)

Here's hoping for many more years together.

I love you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why can't you pick your own seats at weddings?

Remember my dickhead brother-in-law and how he tried to pimp Chuck out? Well, we saw him again last night at a family wedding. This time he told Chuck that Junior probably likes Caillou so much because Chuck looks like Caillou.

I'm not even going to justify that with a side-by-side photo comparison.

Ok, fine, I will justify it with pictures. Here's Caillou:

Here's Chuck last Halloween:


Then Larry asked my brother, Ted, if he and Chuck were gay lovers—because they took a picture together with the disposable table camera.

This all transpired before the best man's speech.

My brother retaliated by doing shots of tequila and dragging me and Chuck outside to talk about the best way to jump Larry.

"He's old," Chuck said, "so you'd have to punch low."

"We're at a wedding," I said.

"He said your husband looked like a pre-pubescent, hairless freak," Ted said. Actually, it came out more like, "He shled your hushband looked like a pre-plescent, hairless fleak."

He'd had a lot of tequila.

In the end, no one beat up Larry. Instead, my brother came to the drunken conclusion that I should tell Larry I was with child. If I were to play an inebriated game of connect-the-dots, I guessed my pregnancy would prove that a) Chuck was so un-Caillouish that he'd knocked me up and that b) since Chuck was boffing me, clearly he and Ted were not gay.

I think? Why couldn't I just eat my steak and potatoes in peace?

I told Ted no, I wasn't ready to tell the entire family about my bun. But I'll bet you can see where this is going. On the way out, Ted did the equivalent of pull down my shorts in front of the high school gymnasium. He went up to Larry and slurred, "My shister's pregnant. Shle's having another baby."

He waited.

Then Larry said, "I know. Your sister's a lush, Ted. She hasn't had a drink all night. I've known all night."

Punch low, is that about right, Chuck?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Egg salad makes me giggle like a schoolgirl

So...my bump. My eentsy teensy tiny bump.

I’m due around Christmas, which sucks sweaty, hairy donkey balls. My birthday is right after Christmas, so I know all too well what happens. People lump your birthday into Christmas and give you a “combo gift” (which isn’t any better than what they would have given you had it solely been a Christmas gift) or they forget about it entirely and mail you a crappy card at the end of January, promising to remember it next year.

Which they don’t. Sales of belated birthday cards spike in January. It’s a commonly known fact.

Forget having an actual party the weekend of your birthday. People are too tired after the holidays to even think about putting on a party hat and having a glass of wine with you. “Wah, wah, the holidays wore me out,” they bitch. As if driving 24 hours with two toddlers, two gerbils, and a carload of presents to visit Uncle Fred and Aunt Sue is a legitimate cause for fatigue. Suck it up!

On the rare chance you do rally a few people for keg stands and cake, Mother Nature steps in and gives you a blizzard.

This poor kid.

At least he (or she?) won't be alone. According to the Mulletville OB-GYN, there are a record number of women in Mulletville who are also due around Christmas. The doctor said—and I quote—“I know what you’ve all been up to.”

I got a mental picture then. A picture of all the toothless residents of Mulletville boffing their brains out the same fateful night that Chuck and I did. I tried to set the scene: Did foreplay include petting their mullets to White Snake? Was there post-coital mullet love, too? “Oh Jimmy, this K-Y sure does add shine to yer mullet.”

That made me throw up a little. Of course these days, what doesn’t make me want to barf?

(Egg salad. I cannot eat enough egg salad. Look at it, just bursting with egg salad-y goodness.)

While at the OB-GYN I also found out that because I am 35, I am of “Advanced Maternal Age.” This means I have to purchase my own ultrasound machine and give myself an exam every night before bed to make sure I am not carrying a four-headed, half-gecko, half-orangutan Frankenstein baby.

Will you pray for me?

As much as I resent the geriatric designation, I actually kinda sorta buy into the advanced thing. Whenever possible, I nap under my desk. I live for sweatpants and comfortable sneakers. I purchase products that advertise more fiber.

Also, my patience isn’t what it used to be. Like, when I’m hunched over the toilet because the smell of my deodorant is making me gag, I don’t laugh off Junior’s “Are you sick, Mommy? Are you throwing up? Am I sick? Do you have a GERM? Do you have a stomach bug? Are you sick? ARE you, Mommy? Are you throwing UP? I’m going to throw up. I’m sick too. Bleeeeech. Mommy, see? I’m sick too. Bllleeeeech. I’m throwing up!”

Instead, I yell for Chuck to come take him away. Yes, if being advanced means I get to crawl into bed—alone—and pull the covers over my head at 7:45 p.m., by God I’ll take it.

So that’s chapter one of my bump: egg salad and nautical-themed sweatsuits that swish when I walk. But hey, at least this time my dad is happy for us in that goofy grandfatherly kind of way. At least this time he didn’t think I was coming out of the closet when I was trying to share my good news.

My boss, on the other hand? Not looking forward to the reveal...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Random Tuesday Thoughts: Duckjerk!


Despite the fact that Chuck is shaving his head right now and clogging up my sink, I'm in a great mood. I had yesterday off, and I have today off.

The sun does shine in Mulletville occasionally.

I can't believe there's only one Golden Girl left.

Yesterday at the beach, my friend and I were talking about sex. Actually, I was telling her about an article I read that said that if you're pregnant you should advise your partner not to blow air into your woman cave because it could create an air bubble that kills your unborn baby.

I'm going to file that under "Things I'd rather not know." Not that bubble blowing is part of my bedroom repertoire...

Wait, I don't have a repertoire.

Did you see this? Normally I'd say something funny about Chuck's problem not seeming so bad after all, but there's nothing funny about a toddler smoking.

I learned how to make egg salad this weekend. Had I known how easy it was to boil eggs, I wouldn't have let twenty years go by before I attempted it. Little victories, my friends. Little victories.

No matter how many times I read this book:

I cannot help but shake my head at Mr. Mallard's balls:

Your wife just popped out eight ducklings, dude. Stick around.

In other duckling news, my mom told my grandma, who told my aunt, who told my cousin, who told the mailman, who told my niece, who told the The Butcher, The Baker and The Candlestick Maker, so I should probably tell you: I have a bun. In my Easy Bake Oven.

For more randomness, head on over to the Un Mom.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The other kind of puffin'

It’s hard for me to understand addiction because I don’t know what it feels like to not be able to say no to something. I’ve been sitting here trying to think of one thing I’m addicted to, but I can’t.

Sometimes I feel kind of boring.

Then I think of the alternative: Chuck. (Poor Chuck. He’s like my little blog lab rat.)

Seven years ago, on Chuck’s 30th birthday, he and his best friend made a pact to quit smoking. The stakes were high. I told Chuck’s friends that after that day, if they could produce physical proof of Chuck smoking I would give them $500.

Chuck made it three months.

I didn’t have to shell out a dime because I caught Chuck red-handed myself. And truthfully, I never would have paid those idiots any money anyway. But dammit, the last few years have been painful. Chuck’s tried everything. He’s been hypnotized three times. He’s tried the patch. The gum. He quit cold turkey. Hot turkey. Turkey with giblets. Weird herbal supplements. You name it.

Then the supreme ultimate cosmic make-you-quit-smoking event occurred: Junior was born.

Contrary to what I’d hoped, that didn’t help Chuck quit. I don’t smoke, but I learned that if there’s anything that makes you want to smoke more, it’s a crying newborn and a hormonal wife who’s recovering from C-section complications and having trouble breastfeeding.

Puff, puff, puff that stick!

In Chuck’s defense, he’s whittled his habit down to 2-3 cigarettes a day. But of course, I want him to quit completely. He’s pretended he has, but hello, men who are all too eager to run errands at strange hours are clearly hiding something. Especially when they come home reeking of hand sanitizer and have enough mint gum in their mouth to stuff a sausage.

Besides, I do the laundry and we all know the truth comes out in the laundry.

Damn those vile cancer sticks.

Then, today, I went to plug my phone in when I saw this:

It's Chuck newest effort. It's an FDA-approved electronic cigarette.

When you exhale, water mist shoots out. It also plays "She'll be coming round the mountain" and doubles as a pocket vibrator.

I'm kidding.

Kidding and optimistic.

It goes without saying that I really hope this works. Chuck says he can already tell his cravings are less, but I've heard that before. It's hard watching someone struggle with addiction. I wish I could stop for him. I wish he had a non-lethal habit like picking his nose or knitting. I wish he'd never started.

Most of all, I wish I could quiet the voice that says, Here we go again. Chuck's inability to kick his addiction is turning into my addiction; there are better things to be addicted to.

Peppermint Patties and Hugh Jackman come to mind...if I had to randomly choose.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My reckless and irresponsible lifestyle caught up with me again

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 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.

I spent the rest of the afternoon curled up in a ball. In between bathroom runs and moaning, I did some Chuck hating. Besides his ass and kidney problems, the man is never sick, and it’s not fair.

I take vitamins. I eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Chuck lives on beer dogs and Ramen Noodles. I got plenty of rest. Chuck sleeps three to five hours a night. I brush my teeth regularly. Chuck brushes when it’s a full moon. I wash my hands like a good little washer. Chuck picks his nose, scratches his butt, rubs the bottom of his feet and then picks up a sandwich.

We both wear contacts. I wear mine for the prescribed amount of time. Then I dutifully rub them in fresh saline each time and put them in a clean case. Chuck sleeps with his contacts in, finds moldy cases, spits in the case, then plops his lenses in.

Guess who gets conjunctivitis and pink eye?

Then there’s Fred, Chuck’s parrot cup. He brings it everywhere. He never washes it. The thing has crevices that are growing bacteria that could be used for biological warfare. It’s slimy and filmy. When Chuck pours drinks into Fred, the liquid gurgles and foams. I daydream about bleaching that damn parrot.

Do you think Chuck gets intestinal parasites from it? Of course not. I swear, the man could lick the bottom of a flip-flop that had been sprayed with raw chicken juice and I’d get sick, just from watching.

Unless. Unless Chuck is the Trojan Horse of sickness. Maybe he’s the carrier. Maybe all those bacteria are partying it up in Chuck and looking for a fresh host. Chuck walks in the door, they see me and voila. Chuck the Carrier infects the poor, unsuspecting Mrs. Mullet.

I knew marriage would blow chunks.

Speaking of which. Oh God. Here it comes again.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Almost as exciting as meeting Cliff from Cheers...almost

Picture it: Yesterday, Brenton Point in Rhode Island. Junior's blowing bubbles. I'm snapping his photo when low and behold, who do I see in the distance?

Yes freaken way! Richard Hatch, winner of the first season of Survivor. He didn't have body guards or anything but aren't my photography skills extra sleuthy?

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 ...