Friday, December 17, 2010

Dear Santa (2010) Part I:

Finally, a Santa after my own heart. 
Must be the mediocre version.

I know it’s a little late to be writing you, but I figure with all your magic you won’t have any problem getting this by December 24th—your busiest workday of the year (unlike my life, which is hectic everyday). I want you to know that I do love you, in all your happy splendor, even if we do have a slightly contentious relationship.

Honestly, Santa, I’m a little annoyed with you. Every year my children sit down to write their Christmas wish list, with their biggest, most expensive request going to you. Why is this? Because you are Santa and you have no budget constraints since your indentured servants elves make all your toys (and electronic gadgets) there in your toasty sweatshop workshop. 

This is a problem for me fat man, because my husband and I don’t get to take credit for scrimping and saving for the “big gifts.” After ripping open their American Girl Dolls, or Nintendo Game Systems, or POOL TABLES for heaven’s sake, our children are shouting, “Thanks Santa!” into the air, (like you can even hear them) while we take credit for the underwear, socks, and functionally warm Christmas sweatshirts. It’s like thanking a Unicorn for knocking out the mortgage. I’m getting tired of letting you take all the credit for my husband’s paycheck and my shopping efforts. Thankfully, you don’t wrap your presents (at least at our house) so I don’t have to do that for you too. (Because finding a wrapping paper that only you have, is getting to be a little difficult too.)

But worse than that Santa, I find myself doing all kinds of things to keep my children believing in you and the magic of the season. How’s that for crazy? I want my children to believe the impossibility that all things are possible. That anything can happen. Paper gingerbread men really can turn into REAL gingerbread cookies on Christmas morning, simply because you willed it. That you can always find us, even if we travel on Christmas Eve, lock all the doors and window tight, or have a fire raging in the fireplace. I perpetuate the myths of the season because seeing that sparkle of hope in my children’s eyes is worth not getting credit for having to take a second mortgage out on the house to pay for “your” gifts. Because Santa…

I lost two believers this year. I know my son knows because now he always refers to you in “air quotes” when others aren’t around. My middle daughter knows too, but she hasn’t come right out and admitted it. We dance around the topic with our usual lies; she’s waiting for me to slip and out you as a farce. But I won’t do it. I won’t say those words until she asks me point blank, and even then I’ll give her another chance by asking, “Are you sure you really want to know?” Of course by that time, they already do know. It’s a little sad for me to know my kids are getting older and skeptical now; a step away from the jaded adults we all become when we know how Christmas really works. 

The good news is that I still have one believer left in the house…my three-year-old daughter who barely understands your story and shtick. We’re all starting to fill her in now on how you work, and I can see the excitement budding in her eyes. So when I asked her what she wanted you to bring her, do you know what she said?

“Coloring books. The big kind.”

Yes. Isn’t that beautiful!? She hasn’t figured out to ask for a TV or a cell phone or a convertible Volkswagen Bug yet (the newly designed 2012 version), taking cues from her big brother and sister. She asked for floor-sized coloring books. And do you know what you are bringing her? Well, of course you do. You’re Santa. I’m betting you’re going to throw in a pack of her own mini markers too, because you are good like that and think of everything.

So I’m focusing on that this year Santa. That my youngest believer-in-you still wants the little things, and is happy with big white pages with dark black lines that she can color. I’m happy to let you take credit for this one. I didn’t have to get a holiday paper route to pay for this gift.

What do my son and daughter want for Christmas, you ask? Or me or my husband? Well, it’s not a very long list Santa, but the items are pricey. I’ll be getting back to you with those items in the next day or two. Right now I have to work on writing more website copy so I can invoice my client and have money to make the higher payments on my credit card. Until you get my next installment letter, continue enjoying your steaming lattes and packing on the pounds while Mrs. Clause waits on you hand and foot. One of these days I'm going to have to write her a letter too...


Rachel G.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Making the Grade. Or Not.

Some of you have mentioned that I left you hanging about my son’s grade status and the consequences my husband and I imposed after he brought home his report card. I apologize. Some info I write here, some info I post on Facebook, and some info I’ve written for Good Enough Mother. I don’t want to go around being redundant (I do that enough here in my mediocre mother life), but I also don’t want to leave my readers in a lurch. The bigger message in all this of course, is that all of you should be following me in all venues of my writing, wherever the hell it happens to appear. Yeah yeah, I know, you all have day jobs. (Most of you anyway.) But I bet you take bathroom breaks don’t you? Well put on a pair of Depends and read me during that precious time. It’ll be worth it. And those Depends really can hold a vast amount of liquid I’m told.

But the long and short of it is, yes, my son had one C on his report card. And yes, in the interest of following through on promised consequences, he lost all TV, video games, and recreational computer for four and a half weeks.

Quit feeling sorry for him. It’s not as if the boy was locked in his room this whole time, and trust me, he got plenty of TV watching in by default. He’s been hungrier these past few weeks than I’ve ever seen him, as he eats snacks at the table where he happens to be able to watch the TV while it’s on in the living room. He has been the best big brother to our youngest, and loves to snuggle with her and keep her company while she is watching movies on her little video player. He has been super cold lately and has needed to stand in front of the fire in the morning before school while I’m simultaneously viewing Morning Express with Robin Meade. He’s found very creative ways to endure his consequences.

It hasn’t been easy for any of us, let me tell you. It’s exhausting trying to enforce consequences of this nature, especially when the long and short of it is—he’s a great kid.
He’s not into drugs. He doesn’t ditch school. He is respectful to authority and does what we ask (occasionally with a complaint, but he does it). In the scope of life and what is important, he is on the right track and we are proud of him.

So, how are his grades now, you ask? Has all this time that’s opened up for him to complete his homework and focus on his studies paved the way to better grades and improved school performance?

Umm, no.

On his last report card the boy brought home, (1A), (3 B-‘s), and (1C+). As of this morning, he has (1 A) and (4Cs).


This is despite OUR working on his homework with him for over two hours every night. I say our, because I am grading and double checking everything he does, putting it into a pile for his backpack, and making sure he has all components of ANY rubric on ALL projects. His teachers say he is focused in class and not goofing around or off-task. This was the year I was supposed to sit in the backseat and let him drive his educational bus for once. What the hell is happening?

Is this typical boy growing/learning pains? Is it an organizational issue? I’m honestly out of answers. Is his life so meaningless without technology that he is doing worse in school instead of better? Should we just leave well enough alone, since he performed better during the first grading period when he was in charge and played video games? Should I just shut he hell up and see what happens, instead of getting all freaky about grades, which we all know are arbitrary?

Yes. I said that. Grades are arbitrary. I can make that statement because I used to be a teacher. And even though I understand that, it’s still important to me (and my husband) that our kids always strive to do their personal best.

And in the last few weeks, I really feel like our oldest IS doing his personal best, even though his grades continue to tank.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming anyone here. But I honestly can’t figure out the disconnect. I have my suspicions as to why we are in this place currently, but it’s only a hunch. I’m trying to be proactive and have open communication with the teachers, without becoming THAT parent who emails and complains constantly. (Because I’ve had my share of those when I taught as well and it’s no fun.) I must say that his teachers have been uber-prompt at responding to my inquiries and extremely helpful in suggesting solutions. I know it’s a thankless, difficult job, which is why I don’t do it anymore. They have enough to handle with oversized classes, relatively little prep time, and more and more “requirements” and pressure coming from our educational system. I get it.

And my son? What’s his take on all this? He’s frustrated, but surprisingly upbeat. His biggest concern of course, is what happens when he gets his progress report and he still has C’s. Will he still lose TV, video games, and computer over the Christmas break? Would we do that to him just to prove a point? Even I know that would be pushing the enforcement too far. I mean, we’re definitely mediocre, but we’re not downright mean. We’ve always said it was about effort, not the printed letters on school issued paper. Since he’s been giving his best effort (and his teachers confirm this), that’s all we ask. After all, it’s effort, attitude, and fortitude that get you places in life, not necessarily grades.

But I’m open to suggestions. If you have older boys, I’d love to hear if you’ve gone through any of this and how you handled it. If you say you just drank your way through middle school and high school, I’ve got that covered. Just so you know. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

And The Winner Is....

Yes! I picked a winner this morning using the random number generator at The chances of winning this thing were pretty good, seeing as how I only had 12 people enter! Awesome for you all! I didn't break my goal of 22 (and that was a pretty mediocre goal if you ask me) but I did get to meet some new people here on Musings, and for that I'm grateful.

So the winner was Jen McCarthy! If you live here on the East Coast, beware of a blonde woman with caffeine in her eyes on Black Friday morning. This is the same woman who husband signed her up to bring napkins to her son's Halloween party. You know what lengths she went to finding the PERFECT napkins, so I'm sure she's downright hell-on-wheels when shopping for Christmas. Congratulations Jen!

And thanks to all of you who decided to follow me. I hope you don't "unfollow" me now that you haven't won. I'll post a longer blog later, but until then, read my latest recap of last year's Thanksgiving travels on Good Enough Mother. If you've ever driven a four ton minivan loaded with three children and crap for any length of time, I know you'll be able to relate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My First Give Away!

Yeah I know. I don't do give aways at all really. They're just not my thing. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE reading blogs that give away cool stuff, or let you know about cool stuff, like my most favorite one Fun Finds For Mom. That really is a great website to read about fun stuff to do with your kids, or the latest and greatest in non-plastic-non-toxic-earth-friendly-lunch containers (among many other things of course).

And while I don't do this very often, I figured right before Thanksgiving would be a great time to give away a $25.00 gift card to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts (you pick) so that come Black Friday you will be sufficiently caffeinated-up to stand in line at 3:30 a.m. to purchase toys you won't even get to take credit for. I hate Santa for that. But I digress.

What do you have to do to enter this fabulous drawing? Well, dear readers, you must subscribe to me. You know that silly little half rainbow looking thing over there in the right-hand sidebar? The one that says, "Never Miss a Post?" Yeah, that one. Click on that and subscribe to my blog, which means you will become: A Follower. Not in a creepy,  Jonestown or Branch Dividian kind of way, but a follower of my mediocre musings. Right now I only have 13 of them. But I would like to give a shout out to the bold people that they are for being ahead of the curve and being a fan before there was even a prize!! However, they're getting lonely and need friends. Hell, I need friends. And honestly, I need a little motivation to blog more frequently than I have been. You subscribe to my blog which allows you to laugh till you pee, and I get to count my followers in the sidebar. It's win-win.

So, bring it on! You have until Sunday the 21st at midnight to subscribe to my blog. Then, please leave a comment below with your name and email. I'll pick a winner (from an online randomization tool) Monday morning and ship off the gift card just in time for the Black Friday Morning!

Tell your friends! All are welcome! Let's see if I can crack 20 followers! No, make it 22!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Life Lesson Cont’d

This past weekend was one of the few weekends in November (or December) that didn’t have tiny writing in the calendar boxes, meaning my husband and I had two full days to do what we damn well pleased. You know, yard work, chores, laundry, and grocery shopping were able to be completed totally unencumbered by sports games, karate, sleepovers, or birthday parties. Which turned out to be a really good thing since the vast amount of our energy, patience, and emotions were sucked dry simply by trying to deal with our son, who has officially morphed into a sad-morose-glass-always-empty-pre-teen.

Since his birth we knew it was coming.

For those who need to catch up a little bit, I guest blogged on the website Good Enough Mother yesterday, about our son’s impending report card status and what is going to happen when he brings home any grade below a “B.” Which I’m praying will happen because if he manages to eeeekkkk his way into all “Bs” it means one thing: that he’ll never change. He’ll think he can half-ass his way right into college with the same amount of effort he gives to picking up his room and folding his clothes into tight, neat piles. I’m sure you can imagine what that looks like.

Last week he mistakenly thought report cards would come home on Friday, but no, it’s actually Monday. Which meant of course, he had one more weekend of video games, TV, and computer, or to be more precise, three more days to breathe easily before he started flopping around, gasping for air like a fish out of water because he has lost technology. Which he tried to work to his advantage.

Every request this past weekend started with: “Since I’m going to lose video games next week, can I…” or “This is the last weekend I have to watch TV, so can I…” which we went ahead and let him do. We’re not as cruel as he makes us sound. We’re happy to give the kid on death-row a few tasty meals of his choosing. He stayed up late Friday night watching a movie. He spent the night at a friend’s house on Saturday, his last tribute to Halo and bonding with his buddy. Sunday morning came, and he was a tired, moody, mess, and angry I called him home from his sleep over so he could attend Sunday morning mass. Apparently the I-need-to-be-thankful-perspective is a few years off.

Sunday was choppy for us all, and I asked him, “Do you have any homework you need to complete today?” He wasn’t sure. He thought he might have a little.
“Don’t you have quite a few tests coming up this week?” I ask. Maybe he does. He thinks so. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the study guides he needs to study effectively. Besides, he tells me, he can always study Monday night.

At which point I send him off to his room to bring me his backpack and folder, while I walked to the nearest wall and banged my head against it a couple times in a repetitive why me motion. Dealing with my son and his homework habits is a little like picking up a drunk relative from the police station after being arrested for a DUI, only to have that relative ask you to stop at the liquor store on the way home so he can buy more beer. And I’m thinking in alcoholic metaphors these days because dealing with a pre-teen has increased my desire to throw a few back. At the end of this year there’s a good chance I’ll have sclerosis of the liver.

My son brings me his backpack, and I proceed to rifle through it just to make sure he was indeed telling me the truth. That he had no homework. That he was all caught up, almost. That the life lesson he was currently swimming through had pushed his little head out of the water long enough for him to gain perspective of the shore. Surely, SURELY, someone who was going to lose four and a half weeks of technology (anything with a cord for heaven’s sake) would MAKE SURE their assignments were completed, wouldn’t they? Faced with the thought of being holed up in our house with only his books and model rockets to keep him company, wouldn’t that encourage him to make SURE he started the new grading period off with completed assignments and good grades?

Do you see where this is going?

I found the weekly letter in his backpack. The one I’m supposed to read on Thursday when it comes home and not on Sunday, three days later. But I’m mediocre and didn’t ask him for his folder on Thursday—or all weekend for that matter—because I decided to be selfish and organize my daughter’s closet and wash the outside of the windows with the 10-foot stepladder.

In this little note home, I discover that my son has a one and a half page essay due on Monday. That he has a graphic organizer “to help with the assignment” and to “please ask your child about this.” So, per teacher’s instructions I say, “Son? What is this about an essay due tomorrow?”

“A what?” he asks. “An essay?”
“Yes,” I reply. “An essay. And you have some type of graphic organizer to help you? Where is that?”
“An essay?” he keeps repeating, like I’m suddenly speaking in tongues and he can’t quite make out what I mean, but maybe if he looks all confused and mopey it will buy him some time to come up with another feeble excuse. He rifles through his backpack and drags out a piece of crumpled paper, a notebook with about seven sentences written down, and he says to me, “You mean, my personal narrative?”

At which point I grabbed the edges of my stained couch and prayed, Lord, please help me not kill my son who is deciding to take this moment to dicker with me over the semantics of his assignment. Is he seriously getting into a pissing contest with me over lexicon? Jesus, hold me back.

“Yes.” I reply, sociopathically. “Your personal narrative. When is it due?”
“I don’t know,” he tells me.
“It says here it is due tomorrow. How much do you have written?”
He holds up his notebook and shows me his 1/8 of a page of chicken scratch and I reply, “Well. Looks like you have a busy day.”

The best part of this emotion-suck-lesson however, was when our son’s best friends pulled into the driveway in their van, hoping to take our son back to their house to hang out and have dinner. His rant suddenly stopped, his smile returned, and he looked at me with hopeful, doe-y eyes. Surely, not even I would say no to this outing! There they were in our driveway, just waiting for him, and it would be rude to say no! But I declined on behalf of my son, thanked them for being salt in his wound, and sent them on their way. Our boy needed to finish his essay. And while it would have been so much easier to let him go play—while the thought of not having to deal with his passive-aggressive harumpfs and deep sighs would have made my day easier, I thought about that cold beer in the fridge, and I held my ground.

He managed to finish writing his assignment, and his father and I forced him to type it up, even though he swore up and down that only the rough draft was due Monday and not the final draft. He was worried he’d get in trouble by completing so much of it ahead of time. I assured him, I would be happy to write a note apologizing to his teacher that he went above and beyond and that his father and I forced him to do it. Blame us for having expectations for our son’s behavior, we can take it. He’s just our minion.

Incredibly, he eeeekkkkked out his assignment at the eleventh hour once again. It took about that long too. There was a lot of crying and nose blowing and used tissue on the floor. And although he told me he was “finished” about five times (each time asking if he could now go be with his friends),we kindly pointed out the other things he needed to complete: picking up his room, studying for his test, working on his math, and doing a final proofing and edit of his essay. Excuse me, personal narrative.

He’s my first child, my only son, and I had no brother’s growing up. I get that I’m new to this adolescent game, especially when it comes to dealing with boys. I naively thought the report card status would be enough to change his behavior in one swift motion. Looks like it’s going to be more of a year-long process. Me, my husband, and my bottle of Merlot are ready for the challenge.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blast from the Past

I’m not sure why I’m feeling so nostalgic this evening—what exactly is motivating me to be writing this at 11:24 p.m. instead of being in bed, beneath my feather tic, listening to the rain drum on my cheap ass single pane windows. I watched my three favorite shows tonight; my old Sunday night ritual. The first time I’ve watched them all since their premiers this fall. Seems like every Sunday night the past two months has been filled with something.

I can’t blame it on my birthday, having been almost a month ago, or the fact that my 20th high school reunion was on Halloween weekend. I didn’t attend, instead figuring I’d start saving for the many plane tickets we may have to purchase in the next year to bury loved ones. Hopefully not. But you never know.

I can’t even say that it’s the rain, although rain has always made me pensive—made me want to light candles and sip hot beverages in thick mugs while ensconced in my warm fuzzy robe and slipper socks. I lead quite the exciting life. Maybe it was the other night, celebrating with my neighbors over red wine and Chinese take out. That relationship where I can be me and funny and relaxed and family and a guest all at the same time when I’m in their house. Maybe I’m just tired. Or going to start my period.

Maybe it's the fact that my son is 11 and he’s edging his way into his first big life lesson which will officially hit sometime in the next week or so, rendering the next four and a half weeks of my life a living nightmare. And though I’m lamenting the nightmare, I’m mourning the gradual loss of my baby boy and my influence over him while at the same time being so excited he’s finally going to learn to fly. Well, at least he’s taking the leap. This first drop is going to be a doosie. But in all actually it just feels high from where I'm sitting. It's a new perch for me too.

I’ve been known to get sappy at times like these. Late at night when I’m tired. I’d probably write an effing amazing novel if I could channel my words to explode between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3 in the morning. That’s probably one of the reasons I’ve yet to write this novel (to be honest, I’m 1,300 words in but it  hasn’t really progressed past the ovulation stage…my novel that is) because I’m sleeping away my creative genius hours.

But these came to me tonight so I thought I’d make a blog post about them. Things I miss about being a kid. Being young. now that I'm waxing nostalgic, I may have actually posted a blog like this before. It feels a little familiar, though I can't truly remember. Oh, there are plenty of things I adore about being OLD, don’t get me wrong. But that’s another blog post. I have to eek out my ideas when I get them. You know as well as I, these essays have seen more prolific seasons. (What am I averaging these days…two posts a month?) Crap.

Anyway. Here’s my list. In no particular order. I miss:

  • Being able to eat a fast food hamburger, fries, and a coke without indigestion and gas.
  • My memory.
  • My metabolism.
  • Sleeping through the night without having to get up to pee four times. I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night.
  • Sitting down to a table full of food I didn’t have to cook. Every single evening.
  • Being able to stay up until 2 a.m. and still be not only functional the next day, but downright chipper.
  • Believing in Santa.
  • Being able to pick something off the floor without bending my knees.
  • Being able to sit on the floor at all without pain.
  • Not having migraines.
  • Waking up on December 26th to a Christmas tree surrounded by wrapped presents; not being the one who put (and wrapped) them there.
  • Thinking my grandparents would live forever.
  • The simplicity that comes before knowledge.
  • My size four arse. Only occasionally though.
  • Being a self-assured, confident, loud, ignorant teenager. And I wish I could have bottled that chutzpah and sold it, becoming a millionaire.
  • Designing new outfits to wear each day. More than that, the time I had to devote to such creative endeavors.
  • Journaling by hand with a medium point blue ball tip pen.
  • Reading all the V.C. Andrews books thinking those were the worst things that could ever befall humans. How little I knew!
  • Listening to my father play the piano in the evening while I was in bed.
  • Talking to my mother while she sat at the end of my bed every night flossing her teeth.

There are so many more. But age has caught up with me once again. It’s after midnight and my eyes are closing, even if my mind is still racing. I miss that too. I miss being able to sleep when I go to bed, instead of lying awake thinking about to-do lists, paying bills, marketing myself, or finishing projects. And there is a three year old waiting for me in that bed, who’s been up the past four nights coughing and generally being miserable.

So I’m going to go to bed now and snuggle with that hacking child, just so I don’t end up writing about missing moments with my children. You know, when I’m old and looking back on being younger.

Weigh in here. Tell me I'm not alone. What things do you miss from your younger days?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Just In: Work At Home Productivity Down 95%

Every night when my husband comes home from work, we exchange our daily routine banter. He asks, “So, how was your day? What did you do?” I regale him with stories about the past 10 hours, which no doubt include way too many details for him, and after me talking for about 15 minutes solid his eyes are a little glassy and he’s already onto his second beer, and he wraps it up with, “So. You wrote the table of contents for your book. That’s great.”

When I stop to think about what I accomplished, which is to say, what I actually wrote down or edited or drafted, it occurs to me that it never really sounds like much at all.

But I always feel so busy! I didn’t even leave the house, not even to check the mail or take the kids to the bus, instead telling them to “walk in the rain; it gives you character. I’ve got to get some work done.” I felt like my ass was strapped to my chair for eight hours, my brain working on overdrive for about 10. How had I only accomplished one little blog? Or one small article? Or one little Letter of Introduction? Do I have multiple personalities that black out sections of time, while my second persona goes shopping, has lunch out, and gets her nails done? Where the hell is my day going?

Well, as I type this I realize now where it’s going. My day is going to that three-year old time-vacuum. The one sitting in the other room right now watching Curious George and eating her breakfast on the couch, no doubt smearing banana hands on my furniture.

When we were finishing the lower level in our house, it was my brilliant idea to create the playroom right off the office space. That way, thought I, my youngest can happily play with her fabulous toys while I sit at my drafting table and write feverishly, churning out loads of novels, websites, blogs, and essays that are thoroughly researched and highly entertaining. She will be happy. And I will be happy. And I’ll have mastered the stay-at-home-work-at-home conundrum.

Yeah. That happened.

My daughter has no desire to play with her toys for more than 10 minutes at most, and then she’s at my drafting table opening the drawers so she can scale my desk and try to sit on my lap while I work. Which if you’ve seen how much clearance I have behind my desk, or know that my chair is a bar stool whose legs we sawed off to fit the height of the drafting table rendering my chair ineffective for moving in and out, you’d understand that what she’s trying to accomplish is a little bit like a circus elephant trying to sit on the shoulders of a tight rope walker without her falling to her death.  

Here was my morning; aka, a typical writing day for me when my daughter is home:

  • Sit down at computer. Open email, begin reading email. Spend 10 minutes reading and responding to email.
  • Daughter wakes up. Must comfort and love on daughter so she’s not in a bad mood. Lop her onto the couch and put on Curious George which buys about 10 minutes.
  • Go back to computer. Close email and go over list of things I need to accomplish today; 1. Finish an article, 2. Continue editing book project, 3. blog.
  • “Mom! I’m hungry! Can I have bwekfast?” child yells from TV room.
  • Get up from computer to make toaster waffle with cream cheese, half a banana, and glass of orange juice. While I’m in kitchen I pull out crock pot and cans of beans to make chili for dinner. Serve child breakfast in front of TV like bad American Mother.
  • Sit back down at computer, open up article to work on. Read through article to figure out where I’m going to add information in and begin to think. Yes, I actually need time to think about stuff.
  • “Mom! Look look!”  “WHAT?” I yell from office. “Look! I finished my bwekfast! Can I have more?” “More of what?” I yell. “More bwekfast! Come here!” she yells back.
  • Get up again, gather child’s plate, get her another waffle another banana, deliver food, and head back to computer.
  • Where was I? Oh, yes. Thinking. Thinking about my article and trying to be creative. I have about five minutes.
  • “Mom! I hafta go to the bathroom!” “Then GO!” I yell. “WHAT?” she yells back. “GO! TO THE BATHROOM!” I yell again. Note that we’re not yelling in anger just for distance, because Curious George is loud and getting out of my office seat eats up time
  • “Mom! I’m done going to the bathroom! I need help!”
  • Swivel-tilt-my chair back, climb out of my creative corner (that hasn’t seen a creative thing yet today) and help child in bathroom.
  • “Do you have to poop? I ask. “No.” She answers. “ARE YOU SURE?” I inquire again. She nods yes. Fine. She must wash her own hands. With lots of soap. She must rinse her own hands. One finger at a time. She must turn off the water, grab the towel, and hit the light switch with no help from me, but I must be physically present.
  • Swivel-Tilt-Adjust myself back in corner. Re-read article for the third time. Okay. Think. Start writing. Feel a groove coming on, a hint at productivity, silence from the other room propels me forward, and dare I say I’m feeling like I might be able to…
  • “Mom! I hafta go to the bathroom!” my daughter yells. “You JUST WENT!” I yell back. “No! I hafta go POOP!” she retorts. “I ASKED IF YOU HAD TO GO POOP BUT YOU TOLD ME NO!” I quip loudly.
  • Passive-Aggressively leave desk and bruise hip and thigh on corner, a good Karmic sign that I need to not be passive-aggressive with my three-year-old. Because peeing and pooping are clearly two separate activities and must not be performed at the same time, when one is already on the pot doing the other, even if convenience and logic tells you otherwise. Different exit areas, different results, different activities. Duh.

And on continues my day, in two and three minute increments. I write in between picking up the toy room so she can find the accessories to her ponies, getting out paint, brushes, and water so she can decorate little wooden hearts and bird houses, throwing a load of laundry in because the other children who live here are out of underwear…. (“Mom!! Mommy! Mah-Mah!” She just yelled. “Are you almost done?? You said you would come check on me!” Do you see what I mean?) and not that I even have time to put it in the dryer let a lone fold it because suddenly it’s lunch time, and I must go scrape together something halfway healthy for her noon meal, which is particularly difficult because we need to go shopping today as we have no food, but we don’t get paid until tomorrow. Mother Sucker.

When I die I have decided to have the following epitaph inscribed on my tombstone:

Here Lies Rachel Vidoni
Tired Dead Mother But Never an Author
She Hopes Her Children Are Happy
Now She Has Time To Think

I’ve been sitting at this computer for an hour and a half, and this is what I’ve got? It could have been better readers. But I must move onto to my next task. Just so I have something to tell my husband when he comes home. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Party Politics

This is a treat any kid would be proud of. (From Parents Magazine)

This one, not so much.

 One of the things I’m constantly being reminded of is that reading the calendars that get sent home from school is important. It’s not that I don’t instinctually know this being a former teacher and all, but life tends to get away from me on an hourly basis which means my children show up to school without the red shirt on, the much needed paper sack, or the five items that begin with the letter “W” in a plastic zip lock.

Now that my youngest is in preschool, I’m having to re-learn all the rules—spoken, unspoken, and whispered in hushed tones—and quite honestly I’m a little annoyed at my learning curve because I was under the impression that navigating preschool would be akin to the old adage about riding a bike or smoking; you never forget how to do it. In reality it’s more akin to breastfeeding. No matter how many times you’ve done it, you wonder why the hell it’s so painful and difficult each and every moment.

I dropped my daughter off September 30th and made sure to find the snack sign up calendar for October, so I could scribble down my John Hancock in a tiny box since I had missed the opportunity to bring in snack in September. As of 9:00 a.m. that morning, the October calendar hadn’t been put up, so I figured I’d sign up for it when I came back at 1 p.m.

Imagine my surprise when (at 1 p.m.) I noticed that not only had the October calendar been tacked to the wall, but that every single snack slot for the month was already taken. How had I missed this? Were the good parents lined up behind the trees and bushes outside ready to steal the slots from me the moment I left? No, logically most children leave at 11:30 and those lucky parents happened to sign up for October. The very nice and gracious teachers told me they’d hang up the Halloween party calendar after 11:30 pick up, so I’d have a chance to sign up for something. I’m a good mom, really I am, they reassured me. They wiped my nose and sent me on my way with a little pat, pat, pat on the back.

It’s not that I’m pouting. I just understand how these things go. I know because I was a teacher when I didn’t have kids and now I’m a parent who doesn’t teach, and I’ve heard first hand the implications of parents who don’t bring in snack. Or a cool item for a class party. You’re  labeled:
·         a busy working mom who doesn’t have time for her kids, or
·         a lazy stay-at-home mom who doesn’t have time for her kids, or
·         cheap, or
·          a user

Trust me. It’s not spoken. It’s one of those quiet things you just feel. I was walking with my friend the other morning who was also commiserating with me on party politics. She says:
“And since I was out of town, I told my husband, ‘Husband, make sure you sign us up to bring something for the Halloween party.’ And so when I got home I asked him, ‘What did you sign us up to bring?’ And do you know what he says? He says, ‘Napkins.’ Napkins! ‘You signed us up to bring NAPKINS?’ I asked him. ‘You don’t sign us up to bring napkins! Napkins aren’t fun! When you sign us up, you sign us up for something good, like cupcakes. Or cookies. You do not sign us up to bring napkins.’ So now I’ve been online and looking in the stores for the best damned napkins I can find.”

Napkins just aren’t sexy, along with the other drab party necessities like paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils. The only thing that would make bringing in napkins cool, is if she hand cut 8” squares out of harvest colored flannel and monogrammed each child’s initial in the corner, which would then make it suitable for a party favor as well. That would be something every  3 to 5 year-old could brag about.

Moms want to bring in something their child can be proud of, show off and boast about, like cupcakes with glittery frosting, or cookies with gummy lifesaver eyeballs, or little bags of candy tied with curly orange ribbon. We want to try out all those food crafting projects we see in Family Fun and Martha Stewart because really good moms make chocolate pudding cemeteries with oreo earth and their children love them forever. Those items speak volumes about how much your love your child, care about their preschool psyche, how dedicated you are to domestic service and hence, what a wonderful woman you must be.

Truth be told, perhaps that extra effort of making colorful cupcakes is a silent offering to our children, a way to make up for the million ways we slight them, yell at them, ignore them, or look past them while we worry about schedules and bills and homework and housecleaning and laundry. If we’re lucky maybe our children will remember the hours we spent decorating 50 sugar cookies with candy corn and black licorice, and not the 15 minutes before bed when we refused to read a story because we were so completely exhausted  the very  thought of reading Good Night Moon brought on a migraine. I mean, any idiot with five bucks in their pocket can bring in napkins and plates. Bringing in party ware must mean you aren’t sorry for anything, right? That your kids should be happy with the mediocre parent you turned out to be?

Regardless of the emotional baggage and implied meaning us parents bring to the party table, kids only see the glittery. The colorful. The sugar coated. And trust me, when the little kids are out on the playground having a pissing contest over what they brought in, you do NOT want to imagine your child, hands shoved in pockets, eyes cast downward while the cupcake kids taunt:
Suzie’s mom brought napkins. My mom brought in the cupcakes that say, ‘Trick or’ Treat!’ when you take a bite.”

Because isn’t that our worst fear? Having our kids be embarrassed of us the way we were embarrassed of our parents? Don’t the embellishments and colorful gift bags make us cool?

Well, the good news is that I got to the sign up sheet before the 11:30 pick up parents, but the bad news is that mini cupcakes and all the food items were already taken. My choice? Non-edible treat. Fine. I signed my name. Perhaps I’ll buy each child their own Barbie house or Star Wars leggo set. I can do something cool with a non-edible treat.

What did they end up with? Well, a little cello bag with a friendly ghost on it, filled with a mini play dough, bouncy ball, and spider ring. I filled a shoebox with the little packages of delight, and they are ready and waiting for the infamous party day.

I know. I sold out. I over did the “non-edible treat” and bought into the politics of the holiday. The good news is that I closed the baggies with the enclosed twist ties and did not use any sort of curling ribbon to make them cuter. I thought about it, but refrained. I mean, I’m sorry at times…

But not that sorry.

It’s a mediocre thing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Nature Vs. Nurture

The other night my three-year old was shrieking in the bath. Mr. Musings arrived seconds before me to find our daughter holding up a piece of my long, black hair that had stuck to her skin. “Hair! Hair! HAIR!” she wailed.
“What’s she yelling for?” Mr. Musings asked me.
“She gets freaked out when hair gets stuck to her,” I replied.
“Is there any way to change that?” he asked.
“What, her genetic code or the hair in the bathtub?” I inquired.
“Her genetic code.”
“I suppose we could medicate her early,” I retorted.

It’s true. My youngest daughter has this gifted ability to find the smallest hairs-stuck to her in the bath, on her sweaters, on the table, and bring them to me pinched tightly between her index finger and thumb, arm outstretched like she’s holding toxic waste. She’s not content until I’ve thrown it away in the garbage and assured her that “everything is fine. It’s just hair.”

The fact that my hair falls out in clumps to rival a molting Persian cat contributes largely to this problem (and is actually enough material for an entire blog), but there’s not much I can do about it. Most days I wear my hair up in a ponytail or twist to keep the suckers from falling out, and my doctors have assured me that nothing is wrong with my thyroid, so unless I decide to go Sinead on my family, we’ll need to figure out a way to deal with the hair. And yes, I’m sure I could vacuum more than I do. Still, I have no idea why she freaks out over little things like clingy hair. (Or messy hands.) No idea at all.

This little peccadillo of my daughters does not stand alone, however. Lately I’m noticing things that seem a little a-typical of three-year old behavior, or at least what they told me was “typical” back in my childhood development classes in college. Granted, it was back when 90210 was popular, so I get that it might not be the most recent information to go on.

My daughter is starting to shows signs of being freakishly organized. Coming in to take her out of the bath one evening I found this:

Wouldn’t most three-year olds have them scattered all over the shower walls? Be pretending to drive the cars over the people and sticking the trees on the roof tops? Not my girl. She’s already creating Stepfordville. Is this an example of nurture or nature? How much is my youngest picking up on my own neuroses, and is this a sign of her neuroses to come?

But perhaps that was just a fluke I think. Until I notice her playing with her puzzles:

And her pegs:

And when she colors:

Yes. Her picture is on the right. Now I’m starting to suspect that my daughter is a little abnormal. The little girl she colored with in the picture above is also three years old and is also the third child. Their pictures look a little different, don’t they?

My youngest even wants to get in on the calendar action; making sure to stay organized by placing important events on each day:

Well sure. We need to work on the writing a little bit, but the big picture is she understands how important it is to write things down on the calendar. Schedule her time. Stay organized.

Even at school one of her teachers commented on her abilities. When I went to pick her up one afternoon her teacher remarked, “You know, I’m really impressed that she could work all those buttons on her sweater. She spent most of the day buttoning and unbuttoning, buttoning and unbuttoning that sweater. That’s really a higher level skill, and not usually age appropriate for a three year old.” We were both glancing down at my daughter during this little tribute, when my daughter reached into her nose, picked a huge booger, and wiped it on her sweater with the big buttons she knows how to work.

“What about wiping boogers on her sweater?” I asked. “Is that age appropriate?”
“Totally,” the teacher laughed. “All three-year olds do that one.”

Whew. Perhaps I don't have anything to worry about. I'm not so naieve to think she wasn't going to get any of my personality, but with each child I keep hoping that it's some redeeming part, not the parts that put people into therapy or on the road to drug warranted anxiety. My oldest is glass-half-empty just like me, my middle daughter is anxiety-ridden just like me, and now my three-year old is turning into Type-A-organized just like me. Oh they have many good qualities, don't get me wrong. For example, they obviously all got my fabulous good looks and winning personality. But I still question how much of their characters are genetically encoded and beyond their control, and how much of it they pick up by living with me as their mediocre mother.

"Is there any way to change that?" I remember my husband asking.
I suppose not. I'll just embrace the years of therapy to come and line up the bottles of Paxil.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wanted: Cat With an Effective Mother

This is what I'm going for. 

Not this.

Last night I was just finishing dinner—chicken pot pie, salad, and apple slices—when I heard scratching and gnawing inside one of my cupboards. The cupboard I keep my Starbucks coffee and Wildflower iced tea in.

Now they’re trying to screw with my caffeine intake. Bastards.

Listening to the little scratchy-scratchy sounds gave me a stomach ache  and I didn't want to open the cupboard to inspect it, lest a mice might dive bomb me right at face level, and you all know what that would do to me.

Put me right in the asylum. Just hand me my straight jacket now.

I tried to call my husband who was supposedly on his way home, but he didn’t answer. Twice. I finally called my neighbor to come check it out since I couldn’t take the anxiety anymore. He did some inspecting and the long and the short of it is, found no mice. But they are still alive and well in my kitchen walls somewhere, probably with a paw full of poo to throw at me given the opportunity.

I can’t tell you how many people have suggested we get a cat. Just today my mother even brought it up.
“Well, what you need is a cat,” she said.
“I’ve considered that, but how do I know I’m going to get a mouser and not just a cat who likes to tinker around with them like stuffed toys?” I replied.
“You know, cats learn those things from their mother. If the mother cat teaches the kittens how to do it, then they’ll chase the mice,” she added helpfully. It always comes back to the mother doesn't it?

Fabulous. So she’s saying I need to scour the alleys looking for a street cat with street smarts, whose mother showed them the finer points of catching and killing rodents? Do you think the people at the MSPCA have the vitaes for the strays in their shelter, filed by personality habits and specialized skills? I’m pretty sure that most cats these days are from the genetic line of the washing-mittens-and-eating-pie type. Meow meow meow.

Perhaps I should just purchase a mouse at the pet store and secretly release it in various cat cages and see what the felines do. A little like an interview or performance evaluation. Chases mouse? Check. Catches mouse? Check. Kills mouse? Nope. Just bats it with paw and licks it. Move on to cat option #2. It’s times like these when it would be helpful if animals could talk, or if those space-age dog collars from the movie UP! were a reality. Then assessing whether a cat was up to the job would simply be a matter of questions.

“So, Tom, tell me about your past work experience.”
Tom: “Well, I used to work down on the west side of town,” he drawls with thick Italian accent, “right behind Jim’s Big Barbeque. To date I’ve captured, killed and disposed of (glances at slash marks on his furry forearm) 253 rodents of all sizes.”

I’d hire him on the spot, that Tom. Even if he was a chain smoker and had a penchant for licking himself.

But you can’t know until you’ve taken the cat home, got the darned thing acclimated to your home, and seen him in action. It’s a huge risk. That, and my husband and I are in a pretty good place. We get along well. We're jovial (mostly). We even have conversations. That this coincides with the death of my other cat two years ago is pure coincidence I'm sure. But I'm a little worried that bringing a new cat into the home would turn our topics of conversation towards, "Did you notice it smells like cat piss downstairs?" or "When's the last time you changed that litter box?" or "There's cat hair all over my workshirts." Am I ready to potentially sacrifice my spousal relationship to appease my germ-a-phobic, controlling, type-A nature?

If I find a new piece of mouse poo I am.

If anyone out there knows of a cat whose mother did her due diligence to the breed and taught the thing how to be a mouser, feel free to contact me. If I like the cat and it works out, I promise to reward you with a special treat: probably something I baked in my kitchen.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mouse Tales Part Deux

 [If you’re just tuning in, I highly recommend reading the blog below first. (The Clock Struck One.) You don’t have to, but the story is funnier from the beginning. Just sayin’.]

I wake up on day two of my Germ Nightmare, (after having spent the night dreaming that I moved into a dorm room at ASU only to find that I had to slay a Troll, kill the snake that was wrapped around my legs and in my shoes—while I was wearing them—and fight off other hideous monstrosities in order to live there…honestly I have no idea what made me dream about that…) and I gently check in the cupboard to see if there are any rodent carcasses lying about.

Nope. But the bait is gone on one of them. Dammit.

Which gives me no amount of pleasure or comfort knowing that the mice are still running through my cupboards and pilfering the bait off the traps while giving me the finger.

I continue to clean the kitchen, pulling out the oven, disinfecting the sides of the stove where all the food spills, vacuuming behind the appliances checking for more mouse poop, and generally dismantling the kitchen area while trying to purge it of mouse feces. It was a beautiful day.

My husband got home later that evening, checked the traps that were in the cupboard, and we crossed our fingers and said a little prayer that the traps would work this time. (Maybe I was the only one praying come to think of it.)

Around 11:00 p.m. my SIL, BIL, and I were in the kitchen/living room talking when my BIL, who is leaning against the counter and facing the fireplace, starts pointing and shrieking at the wall behind me.
“AHHHHH!! Ahhhhhh!!!”  he yells. He’s yelling and pointing and gagging a little I think, and I’m starting to freak out because I’m not sure what he’s looking at behind me—a couple of glances didn’t reveal anything—and I’m wondering if he’s seeing an otherworldly specter, the grim reaper or maybe Jesus himself, and while he’s still yelling and pointing, I turn around long enough to see it…..

…a mouse that has popped out of a tiny hole between our mantel and the slate bricks of our fireplace and is now running along the fireplace, down onto the floor and into the floorboard heaters in the living room. I’d have rather seen Jesus.

 I’m not sure at what point I found myself sitting on the edge of my hutch with my feet ontop of the couch, but I do recall that I also started yelling for my husband, repeatedly calling his name with terror and immediacy in my voice, and I keep calling and calling and calling him, and I think “Where the hell is that husband of mine…is he outside?” because aren’t husbands supposed to come running when they hear their wife is in distress and screaming their name? Where’s my knight in cotton shorts when I need him?

But no, he isn’t outside, and he comes sauntering, sauntering I tell you, up the stairs and into the living room, like I always yell his name in fits of shock and panic and it’s no big deal that screaming wife who is sitting on the hutch with her feet on the back of the couch because she frequently has fits similar to these and why hurry.

“Did you see a mouse?” he says all casual-like; tones reminiscent of “did you get the mail,” or “pass the salt,” or “have you seen my wallet?” Like we see mice in our house every day. No. Big. Deal.

My husband is not an alarmist by the same measures that I am a germ-a-phobe, which is probably a good checks-and-balances system in our union, but I was kind of hoping that he’d locate the sucker, look for it, capture it, dispose of it, in front of me and before I decided to go to bed that night, just so I could rest peacefully and with the budding illusion that perhaps the only mouse responsible for all that crap in the cupboards was dead. But he didn’t.

He nonchalantly got another mouse trap, baited it with peanut butter, and placed it on the floor in the living room near the baseboard  heater where the thing disappeared.

“Aren’t you going to look for it any more than that?” I asked incredulously.
“Nope,” was his reply.

To say I was crestfallen is an understatement…but whatever I was feeling (a mixture of horror, anger, helplessness to name a few) one thing was certain: you can be damned sure I wasn’t going to be sleeping on the couch—where I had slept the night before because of snoring and company. I took the master bed. If my husband wasn’t going to find the mouse then he could sleep in the same room with it, a few feet away from it, and listen to the trap snap in the middle of the night all by his lonesome. Not me folks.

The next morning I awoke to whispers of good news. My SIL asked me, “Did you hear that we had caught the mouse?”
“Which one?” I asked.
“The one in the cupboard,” she said. “We heard the trap go off while we were talking. I cleaned out your cupboards with bleach and everything.”
“What about the one in the living room?” I inquired.
“I think the mouse we caught in the cupboards was the same one. I think he ran down the heaters and around to the kitchen. I’m sure that’s the only one.”

Now, I think I’d like to marry my SIL. Here is a woman who knows exactly how to lie to me, what illusions to feed me, so I can carry on with living in my house and cooking in my kitchen without fear and panic. She knows that I know there is more than one mouse, and that clearly it wasn’t the one in the living room; she knows I’m no idiot, and yet, she doesn’t make me feel stupid for my phobias, she just lies to me in order to help keep the pathways in my brain moving and not frozen. That, and she cleaned the cupboards with bleach. Because using a flame thrower to get rid of dead mouse germs is just too dangerous and pure acid is simply too strong; but she understands me enough (and she is such a good housekeeper herself) to know that bleach will do the trick and make me feel better. She is a smart, smart woman. My husband could really stand to take a pointer or two from her on how to handle me. Bless her bless her bless her.

I approach the living room couch, where my husband is curled up in blankets, and glance over at the trap that was set on the floor—and there lies dead mouse #2. Feet straight up in the air and still. That’s just how I like my mice….four legs in the air and on their backs. PETA people best stand back, because I’ll argue this with you till my death.

A check of the traps in the garage reveal another dead rodent—to bring the death total to three. And a few days ago, another trap in the garage caught mouse #4. Four dead within four days. There is still a baited trap in the cupboard which hasn’t seen any more action since its first body, but we’re leaving it there (along with a few more in the garage) to make sure we’ve caught all the pooping culprits before boarding up the cupboards and sealing holes. Nothing’s worse than mouse carcass in the walls I’ve been told. I’m happy to take their word for it.

And now? Well, the kitchen is really, really clean. During this event I purged many cupboard items I didn’t need, didn’t use, and simply served to collect rodent crap. I’ve cleaned behind my stove as well as the sides of the stove. I’ve vacuumed above my oven, and next to my fridge. Oh, and I get to buy a new toaster. Whoop Whoop. I may never store my cookie sheets and baking pans under the stove again (you can’t properly seal up a stove drawer) and there is a good chance that the plastic bin that currently houses those objects will become our newest piece of kitchen furniture. I’m okay with that. All I know is that the next mouse I see better be dead, or on TV being chased by an idiot cat.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Clock Struck One...

Isn't he cute?

I’m curious why in our folkloric past we fondly sing of rodents. Three blind mice, Three blind mice…Hickory Dickory Dock, The mouse ran up the clock… And who can forget the adorable Jerry, constantly trying to escape that idiot cat Tom? Why he’s so cute it makes every child yearn for pet mouse, one that can slam doors and throw frying pans. More recently, Disney Pixar comes out with a fabulous animated flick of a rat trying to make a living in the fancy kitchens of France. (I think.) Rats are just mice on steroids, and you’ll forgive me for lumping them together. A rodent is a rodent is a rodent, especially one in the kitchen. I honestly can’t say I’ve seen Ratatouille start to finish because I can’t get past the idea that there is a warm blooded, hairy beast in a kitchen, who sits inside some nerd’s sweaty chef hat yanking on his hair. All I’m thinking is that it must really smell in that hat, that gross greasy head smell, and that now there’s rat poop all on top that guy's head, because honestly that rat is up there cooking up “specialties” for hours. We all know that rodents poop as often and profusely as their whiskers twitch, and well, while Pixar is nice enough to leave out these realistic tidbits, my mind won’t let them go. I’m a realist and a germaphobe. You can’t fool me. I will not be deceived.

But there’s nothing cute about rodents in the kitchen, nothing funny about it whatsoever and I can tell you how I know.

Last Thursday night, my family, my in-laws, my sister-in law, my brother in-law, (yes that’s all of them) and my son’s friend, arrived home at 9:30 p.m. after five days at a cabin in Maine. We were all exhausted, the house was filled with suitcases, bins of kitchen items, dirty beach towels, wet water toys,…you name it, it was littering all rooms of the house and down the hallway. A few of the adults were in the kitchen, emptying the clean dishwasher, when my BIL pulls down a canning jar that I keep in my lower cabinets next to the toaster.

It had a tiny piece of mouse poop on it.
He shows it to me and my husband, and we go, “Hmmm. That’s interesting. I wonder how that got there.”
And then my BIL pulls out more canning jars. And we find more poop. And now I’m not going, “Hmmm,” but “WTH?....”
And then he pulls out the toaster.
(You may want to put down any food you may be eating right now.)
And we look inside the toaster. And the bottom of the toaster is covered in mouse poop.
Covered. Like twenty five mice sat inside my toaster and had a pooping contest, seeing how much excrement they could push out and high fiving each other while doing the deed. And now I’m thinking:
“When’s the last time I made toast?”
Seriously,  how many of you look inside the toaster each time you plunk bread in it? You just take it for granted that the toaster is clean. I know I did. But I'm staring at what seems like four tablespoons of crap and I'm wondering: Is all this poop the result of days or months of rodent activity, or did the mice know we were on vacation in Maine and suddenly run through my cupboards with wild abandon? Is it possible for mice to poop that much in five days? I sure as hell hope it is. Because if it isn’t, my whole family has been eating Ego waffles and bagels smoked with fecal matter.
(Hang on a minute…my mouth is salivating and I think I may lose it…)

Well, needless to say the next hour or so was spent emptying out cupboards and searching for small, black, rodent droppings. Yep, found in three cupboards. Above the stove. In the stove drawer. No doubt behind the stove and in the lazy susan I refuse to use, and now for good reason.

I’m tired. At this point in my day I’m barely keeping it together, lest I cry and sob right in front of all my inlaws. Not that they’d be shocked or anything, it’s just not a very adult thing to do. I put on my victim hat and wondered why these things always happen to me. Because these events do nothing to assuage my psychological germ-baggage and instead fuel them like lighter fluid on a barbeque. You thought I was crazy before? Honey, I’ll never toast another piece of bread anywhere without inspecting the insides of the device I’m using. You were embarrassed of me ordering at a restaurant previously? Wait till I ask them if there is mice defecation inside their toaster. These episodes continue to make living with me a brand new experience every day.

So what did we do? We laid traps of course. Little cheap, wooden mice traps in my kitchen cupboards and in the stove. Did we catch anything?

Well. Yes and no. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the rest of the story. It gets better. Trust me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

No, I haven't been arrested.

I know you're missing me. I'm missing you quite frankly. I've been lazy you see, and I can't keep the kids quiet long enough to even create a pathway in my brain for logical thought, let alone to try and be funny. There just isn't room right now. This is what is currently taking up space in my grey matter:
-the mice that are living in my kitchen cupboards (yes, you know you'll be reading the details very soon)
-the trip to Maine I still haven't recovered from
-two school supplies still MIA because all the stores were raped bare by everyone else but me
-school is starting in two days for two of my children. I vacillate between weeping for joy and weeping because I'm so damned tired of getting them ready for school. Notice I am not weeping because I will miss them.
-working on my website/business cards/etc. so I can feel like I have a real job. Sorta.
-spending as much time as possible by my neighbor's pool drinking beer. After 10 a.m. of course.
-sleeping in. Especially since my son will now have to be at the bus by 6:40 in the morning. This may prove very difficult for both of us. How young can you start kids on coffee?
-haircuts. Everyone needs one. As usual I have made no appointments and so my children will attend the first day of school looking like backwoods hicks.

So. You can see my mind has been a little busy. I'm coming back, don't you worry. My apologies for my lack of blogging. I'm hoping your summer was fabulous and you'll be tuning in for the prime time season of Musings.

Monday, August 9, 2010

R.M.A.O? I Don’t Think So.

Imagine running with two of these; one of which is leaking. 

While in AZ this summer, I had the great opportunity to have lunch with the fine folks of School Webmasters (SWM), the company I freelance for on a regular basis. I’m proud to say that I ate some fine Italian food with the CEO, the Art Director, the Lead Copy Editor, and the Office/Project Manager. And then there was me. The freelancer. Notice how I didn’t capitalize that. I don't make enough money for a capital letter yet, but I'm working on it.

It’s an amazingly powerful group of women, considering they established, run and operate a pretty large business, and employ freelancers who can work from home and thereby stay close to their kids. Which also allows them to keep their office pretty small and local with not a lot of pesky overhead. Nicely planned.

There are many things I love about working for SWM, the biggest one being that these ladies are really funny. They also read my blog (perhaps to be supportive but more likely to make sure I’m not leaking company secrets) and find that funny too. I suggested that if they found me so hilarious I probably should get a raise, to which the Art Director responded, “Well, you’re not that funny. You’re just LOL funny. Probably not LMAO funny, and definetly not LMFAO funny. Nope. You’re LOL funny and I’m pretty sure that’s just about where your pay is at.” Well, needless to say, I LMAO at that one. Touche.

One of the things I do not like about these women however, is that they exercise. They talk about exercising. They even run, ride bikes, join races where you run for miles and miles in a Godforsaken desert, and try odd diets like taking GPS…no, wait, HGTV…sorry wrong again…hCG? I think that may be it. Weird. But they do like to run.

I hate riding bikes.
I hate running even more.
And generally, I look at people who do run with a mix of fascination, jealousy, and disdain.

Oh, I’ve tried to run, don’t get me wrong. I even trained with my father for a half marathon a few years back. I did the half marathon, but I’m pretty sure that my father could have lapped me twice at the rate I plodded and bounced down the street like a hard boiled egg all off balance and out of whack. He stuck with me to be supportive and chalked it up to QT with his eldest daughter while my middle sister ran past us, completing the full marathon. She’s run two of them. I felt a little betrayed by the fact that she never hinted at her closet running personality growing up—instead shocking us all with the ability to run and run and run like Forest Gump once the leg braces were removed. And even though I made fun of her style—her legs tend to splay out a bit when running—I’m really just jealous. Who am I to mock her when she can do it and I can’t? Run, sister, run!!

I’ve come to accept the fact that there are significant factors that hold me back in the running department. One of them is my arse.

Yes, as my grandmother used to like to say to me, “Rachie, you have yourself an onion butt, but don’t worry, guys like onion butts.” Not to be outdone of course by the other comment she made while I was in college as she was measuring my posterior for some clothes, “Welp, Rachie. You’re not a young woman any more.” Which is to say, that my pearl onion butt had morphed into large Vidalia onion butt, which currently looks like rotting onion butt, with pockets of soft tissue hidden beneath flaky scaling skin. Layers and layers of 37 year-old onion deliciousness. Yum.

The problem with having an onion butt (besides fighting men off with a stick all those years) is that it makes running a tad uncomfortable for me. When I run my arse jiggles like two sagging water balloons are attached to my lower back and I’m always a little embarrassed that the residual effects will leave me bruised. Wearing a sports bra helps keep the chest jiggle to a minimum (honestly, it’s already pretty minimum) but I’ve yet to find a pair of sports underwear that will keep by arse in check. Duct tape doesn’t seem very functional. Wrapping it with an ace bandage seems moot. I suppose I could wear some Spanx under my running gear, but I’m worried it would be too hot.

Even if I did solve the ass-jiggle conundrum, there’s also not much I can do about the fact that running isn’t very good for my bladder or uterus. According to the anatomy books I’ve read and all the illustrated cross-sections of women I’ve seen, the bladder and uterus are supposed to remain inside the woman’s body—a location I can’t guarantee if I were to run on a regular basis. With each pound-pound-pound of my feet running on the sidewalk, I envision my uterus slip-slip-slipping out of place. Not to mention the drip-drip-dripping of my bladder with each step. I’m not in a hurry to be on a first-name basis with my uterus or bladder, obliged to say hello to them when I use the restroom. While genetics may force this “meeting of the organs” on me in the future, for now I’m happy having them reside safely and quietly in my internal darkness. I’m starting to suspect that when God was making me He ran out of Liquid Nails and patched me together using Scotch tape. A great substitution for construction paper, doilies, and maybe even Popsicle sticks, but certainly not for a bladder and a uterus. Those suckers are slippery. Clear tape just isn’t going to cut it.

But I have to do something because I’m realizing I’m starting to feel creaky. Achy. I’m not huffing up the five steps in my house, but I’m probably not far away from that moment. The last two mornings I walked with a couple friends on the street. I actually dragged my sorry-onion-ass out of bed at 6:30 a.m. and walked for an hour each day. It’s a step in the right direction I suppose, even if my shins feel like Tanya Harding’s ex-boyfriend took a bat to them. But thankfully, neither woman is running yet, although there was brief talk about it. I’ll walk fast. I’ll even sway my hips and pump my arms in speed-walking fashion just to keep up if it means I can keep my panties dry and my organs where they belong. Don’t get me wrong. There a few instances where running is absolutely necessary: like from a burning building. Or to protect my kids from a wayward vehicle or a busy street. Or if someone fell into the pool and hit their head. Those are running times and while I’d miss my bladder and uterus, I’d live without them because it’s the right thing to do. But certainly not just to exercise. Not for my heart. Not for no damned marathon. And absolutely not for the fun of it. As if.

To recap: I don’t like to run because I jiggle, fall apart, and pee myself. Hey, if you can run and not leave body parts behind you while you do it, bully for you. Keep it up. Stuff the ear plugs in your ears and turn up "Eye of the Tiger" to 45 decibels and run like Stallone. The women at SWM can do it. My sister can do it. I’m pretty sure my neighbor friends can do it. Not me. I’d rather LMAO than RMAO any day and twice on Sunday. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

One of Those Days

Finally home. Monday’s trip was…an emotion suck of vast proportions which was pretty much in keeping with my 26 days in Arizona. Par for the course, as they say.

I’d like to publicly thank the gentleman at the Southwest curbside check in, who made it so easy and painless to check four large, heavy suitcases and a carseat onto our flight, and who not only took care of my luggage, but also printed out the family’s boarding passes while we waited. In times like these I’m more than happy to tip way more than humanly necessary just to easy a little of my travel burden. And he did it without rolling his eyes at the weight of all my suitcases or asking me if I was moving.

We arrived at the airport at 5:30 am AZ time, and proceeded to the first Paradise Bakery I found to load everyone up on carbs and caffeine. (Well, the caffeine was for me.) The first flight was booked solid, and while I was in the B boarding group for Southwest, it proved not very helpful. They board the families with small children between the A and B boarding groups which is usually just fine because I always seem to be one of the few idiotic mothers who travels alone with three children, allowing me a queen like status as I waltz past the other ‘normal’ travelers with my children, backpacks, food bags, and a stroller following along behind me like Pig Pen’s cloud. It’s a proud moment.

Monday’s flight to Baltimore however was loaded down with so many families that it looked strangely reminiscent of a Little People’s Convention, the little people here being children under the age of 10 and not people of short stature. I was so caught off guard at not being the only mom with kids that I didn’t get in line when I should have and ended up at the very back of the proliferating-adults-accompanied-by-fruits-of-their-womb line.

A quick glance around the plane as we boarded confirmed what I feared; all the families before me scored the connecting seats, while every other ‘normal’ traveler coveted the isle seats, leaving me bits and pieces to choose from on where to place my kids. I did consider sprinkling them throughout the plane in the center seats just to be pissy and sit alone at the back of the plane where I might possibly be able to shut my eyes for a second, or throw back a nip or two of Dewars scotch, but I felt that people might complain. I kindly said to the male Southwest flight attendant:
“Excuse me, Could you please help me find a row together so I can sit with my kids?”
At which he replied without looking at me:
“All the seats together are in the back,” and then dismissed me. It doesn’t take a degree in engineering to notice that there were no empty rows, having all been dotted with isle-seat sitters and a few window grabbers, leaving me slim pickins. Now I’m slightly agitated, which is unfortunate for the two gentlemen I spoke to next.

I spotted two rows where the window and middle seats were open, whilst two isle-squatting gentlemen sat trying to avoid my gaze.
“Excuse me gentlemen,” I voiced loudly, which forced them to acknowledge me. “Are those seats taken?”
They each shook their heads as fear and terror crept into their eyes as they realized what I was going to do.
“Thank you! Kid #1 and Kid #2, you sit here. Sit now. Put your backpacks under your seat. Buckle up. Do it. Do it now. Thank you.” I command while shoving them into a row next to one man. The baby and I slid past the other guy right behind my older two, situated ourselves and prepared for the flight.

This seating arrangement unnerved my middle daughter who feels anxious sitting next to “strangers” and who whispered between the seats to me the whole flight, “Please mom. Please can I come sit with you?” I assured her she was fine and to take up any anger she may have with the male flight attendant who refused to help us.

Flight was going along swimmingly, until we hit a patch of turbulence. It’s important to note that among my many idiosyncrasies and neuroses is a fear of turbulence- something that I’m always sure will result in a wing breaking off sending the plane plummeting to the ground and I’ll have exactly 2.5 minutes of ensuing horror while I wait for darkness to come and for my guardian angel to reveal him or herself. I pray mightily for no turbulence and generally when we fly the flights are smooth and I’m relatively peaceful, but the second that first bump comes, I’m white knuckle gripping the seat in front of me and saying a rosary. It’s a fear so intense that I’m trying to make deals with God and myself, like, “I’ll lick a toilet seat. I’ll eat my food off the floor. I’ll overcome ALL my other fears. PLEASE PLEASE JUST LET THE TURBULENCE END!” While the plane is bump, bump, bumping along my older two are looking back at me, saying things like, “Mom! Isn’t this fun! It’s like a fair ride! Whoooooo, Wheeeeee!!” and waving their hands in the air like a roller coaster at Disneyland. Then we hit an air pocket and the plane falls a bit which means that all the passengers on the plane let out the unconscious gasp and whoo, and the guy sitting with my kids looks back at me, as if to say, “What do you want me to do about this,” and I shoot him a “good luck take care of my kids I hope you’re a nice man” look right back at him. Serves him right, that isle-squatter.

But I manage to keep it together, not cry or vomit, which is pretty good considering that I’m about ready to morph into a panic attack and there’s nobody who will hold my hand or tell me we aren’t going to die. My husband comes in handy in times like these. I think of how he’ll feel living without us. Would he keep living in Massachusetts? Move back to Arizona? Become so overwrought with grief that he drinks too much, loses his job, and starts living on the street? Imagining life without me would be devastating I’m sure of it. Oh, and the kids too of course.

We finally land in Baltimore, me praying in tongues of thanksgiving like an old Jewish woman speaking Yiddish. The Baltimore tarmac was a beautiful, beautiful sight. And the flight was even early. Yippee.

It’s 1:15 p.m. Our next flight is scheduled to take off at 3:20, which gives me almost two hours to feed my offspring, start breathing, and mentally gear up for getting on another plane. Which is when I look out the window at the runway.

The sky is grey and oddly silent, but what unnerves me a bit is the low-lying black clouds that are moving towards the window directly over the airport. I’ve seen my share of dark rain clouds, but these are spooky clouds and they’re black. In a matter of moment as we sit watching the runway, the clouds move over us, the rain begins to plummet and there’s lightning. Not high-in-the-sky lightening like someone’s flicking the light switch on and off, but bolts of lightning. Single bolts of bright lightning and they are actually striking the ground.

I’m thinking this is a bad time to be on a plane. To expedite the narrative of the next few hours, I’ll highlight the important events in bullets:
  • They closed the runways. Any lightning strike within a three-mile radius automatically closes the runways and all activity outside. Trucks pull in. Baggage handlers scatter. Silently I’m breathing a little easier since I’m inside on terra firma and not stuck in a plane trying to take off.
  • The aircraft for our flight is circling in the sky above the storm waiting for the green light to land.
  • The storm passes briefly allowing a few planes to take off and land. Our flight is not one of them.
  • The storm picks up force and there are more lightning strikes, which closes the airport again. Our flight has been circling too long and is now forced to land in Norfolk, Va. Three other flights are also diverted because they had been circling too long.
  • At 5:00 p.m. our flight still hasn’t left Norfolk, VA but the airport is open and the 5:55 flight to Boston is scheduled to be on-time. I put our names on the stand-by list figuring it’s a fat chance in hell, but at least it’s an option.
  • At 5:15 the Southwest gate attendant announces for stand-by passengers to come see her at the desk. While I’m waiting to talk to her, she also announces that our Providence flight has left Norfolk, and should be arriving around 6:45 and they’ll get everyone on board and shipped off as quickly as possible. What to do? Take the Boston flight that is boarding now, or wait for another hour for the Providence flight and hope nothing else goes wrong?
  • I took the one bird in my hand instead of the two in the bush, and yelled at the kids to gather their belongings; we were shipping out to Boston. Even if it meant that all our luggage would still end up in Providence. I needed to be home and free of this day.
  • We board the plane; me sticking my children in a row together, while I sat across the isle from them by myself. It was actually a beautiful set up.

It’s 6:10. The plane hasn’t started its taxi yet. I’m wondering what’s up when a flight attendant comes on the PA system and says,
“Hello ladies and gentlemen. Our co-pilot just got here, and well… he noticed that one of the tires on the plane is flat. So it’ll be just a minute as we jack-up the plane and change that tire. Thanks for your patience folks.”

I’m sorry. Did he just say the plane has a flat tire? And that it went unnoticed by all the ground crew? And that our co-pilot, before taxiing, noticed that it needed to be changed?

I really have a problem with this kind of honesty. After my turbulence in the sky and averting the electrical storm in a big flying piece of metal, I now am wondering if when we try to take off or land a tire is going to blow, causing the plane to spin out of control and end up in a firey heap alongside the tarmac. I would have preferred a lie like, “Well ladies and gentlemen, we’re almost ready to take off, but the pilot needs to finish his last box of Suduko. He’s almost figured out where those last numbers go, and then we’ll be off towards your destination. Everything is perfectly fine. There are nooooo problems with the aircraft at all. It’s just that pilot Jim has such an attention to detail he must finish this puzzle so he can concentrate on flying the plane with the same amount of precision and focus. Thanks so much for your patience.” That’s an excuse I could embrace.

We landed in Boston around 8 p.m. safely with no additional blowing of tires. After sucking down a glass of wine on the plane I was feeling a little better. The sight of my husband after 26 days was a little bit like seeing him waiting for me at the altar; only this time not only were there tears of love, but exhaustion and anxious release as well. And the knowledge that I’m no longer the only parent for these three kids.

The good news about having all our luggage go to Providence was that we were able to head straight to the van for home. Once again, not only am I glad to be home, but I’m also glad that I don’t travel like that more than once a year. At my old age, my mediocre emotions can barely handle it.