Thursday, August 30, 2018

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

Is this mother effing pool:

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

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

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

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

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

"It's not level."

"But it is!"

"It's not."

"It really is."

"It's really not."

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

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

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

"It's level."

"It's a death wish."

And so on.

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

"Everything ok?" Bob asked.

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

"It's not level," Chuck yelled.

"But it is!"

Bob and Claire quickly left. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But it's not level!" I said. 

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

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

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

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

Deeper! Faster!

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

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

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

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

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

So here we are, weeks after that:

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Free to be Wonder Woman

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

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

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

"You're Wonder Woman, Mom!"

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

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

I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I read it again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

When your sons play with your childhood Barbies

They make a man cave.

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

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


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

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

I can see my work is cut out for me.

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 ...