Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Look Out May: Here I Come

So many of you were enjoying my blog posts everyday during Lent, I put a call into the Vatican, asking if there was any way to install another Lenten season during the year. As you may have guessed, Pope Benedict is a little busy putting out various public relation fires, both spiritual and emotional, figurative and literal, and the receptionist told me in polite Latin, "Id est quod id est." It is what it is. Being a lifelong Catholic, I knew pretty much going in with this request that the chances of adding another Lenten season just so I could vow to blog everyday, were about as likely as hell freezing over, but hey, miracles happen. Just ask Jeremiah Land.

In lieu of changing the liturgical calendar, I did the next best thing: joined a blog-a-thon taking place during the month of May. Yes, happy readers, everyday for the month of May I’ll be blogging on various topics and to ensure my success, I have even made a calendar of topics by day. (Yes, I realize the above image is an old calendar. Just wanted to get that out of the way so noone decided to print this off an start planning your important to do list on it.) Much like planning a monthly meal calendar (which I did successfully for awhile) so as to avoid the 4:30 p.m. “What’s for dinner tonight mom” questions and the stress that ensues, my blogging calendar will give me a topic for discussion everyday. No more excuses. This is such a good idea I’m not sure why I didn’t do this for Lent. I’ve made a mental note for next year.

I’m not going to be able to give away the entire calendar because I want you to tune in to see what’s posted, but the month’s topic list includes:
  • National Dance Like a Chicken Day-Ways to Celebrate the Yard Bird
  • Nice Moms Don’t Have Tattoos-in honor of Body Painting Arts Festival
  • Limerick Day (you’ll have to tune in to see if I keep them clean.)

There are close to 70 bloggers who have signed up for the blog-a-thon, and I’ll link their blogs in the sidebar so you can see what other bloggers are writing about every day for 31 days. It will also provide additional reading material if you happen to work at night and feel that I don’t blog as often as you’d like (cough, cough).
What do you have to do to enjoy these daily posts? Just tune in everyday during the month of May to see what I’ve been up to. And tell your friends about East Coast Musings as well. Maybe they would enjoy starting their day with something to make them laugh and not the rank, depressing, vile information you’re likely to get on the morning news. Not that I don’t blog about rank, depressing, and vile topics. But there isn’t a daily body-count in our house. As of this posting anyway. Oh, and consider posting comments. I know it takes a few seconds to fill out your info, but if I change my settings to make posting easier, I get spammed. Then I'm reading comments from people selling bizarre bodily acoutrements, and offering shady services I'd rather not proffer on this blog. It's like running to pick up the phone expecting that long awaited call to find it's a telemarketer. It's no fun at all. So take a minute and post. I'll be forever grateful and I'll try to post a comment to your comment. So we'll be, like, talking.
If you have any suggestions for topics you’d like to see me write about, there are free days on the calendar as of now. I’d love to get your feedback. And since I’m feeling all bloggy again, I’m going to feature a different summer-time drink or beer on my blog every day as well. Nothing like an excuse to embibe for 31 days straight. I dare you to keep up.
Here’s to May: three days and counting.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Girls Night Out (GNO)

My ears are still ringing. My feet are throbbing and thankful they aren’t squeezed into my two-inch heeled boots any longer. Say goodbye to the goodie bag of youthful parties; when you celebrate a friend turning 40 you leave the event with a migraine and sore feet.

I attended a friend’s 40th birthday party Saturday evening at an Irish pub. She’s a member of my fabulous book club and most all the ladies were in attendance. It’s been awhile since I’ve been at a bar/pub past 9’oclock without the presence of my offspring or my husband. And on a Saturday night to boot. While I had a good time and got to dance to a few songs (more on that later) it was a tad reminiscent of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure—traveling back in time to my college days when I was so much cooler and could stay up past 10:00 p.m. without yawing. Or wishing I was in my elastic-waist fuzzy pants. Or yearning for a cup of tea and a good book. For those of you who may not get to venture out to the wild side very often, here are some of my observations.

Pub-ing it Then and Now

The conversations are different.
Back in college when at a bar, I’m pretty sure the conversation revolved around what hot guys were where, who was looking at whom, and what-do-you-think-of-my-outfit-do-I-look-okay? If you did stray from those self-absorbed topics it was to talk about what you were drinking (Midori sour? Kamikaze? Jager bomb? Flaming Dr. Pepper?) and of course what you wanted to drink next. That’s pretty much it. In between those intellectual conversational pieces you would dance. And dance. And dance. Watch people dancing. Go pee. Dance some more.

Post-college-marriage-children conversation at the pub were a tad more personal. We talked about our mom panties. How hard it is to find sexy undergarments when your butt is the size of the kegerator you once admired for totally different reasons. How shopping at Victoria Secret is no longer enjoyable now that you realize there is nothing in that store that will make you look the least bit sexy without some serious beer goggles and a black light, coupled with an insane amount of personal grooming and holding in the gut your children left as a constant reminder of their presence. And most importantly, how we could really give a rats ass about it all anyway. We’re married. The buffet is over and we’re only serving up one dish. It’s take it or leave it at this point. We’ve accepted this.

We talked about our babysitters. “Who’s watching your kids?” “You have the WHOLE night off? Good for you!” “How much do you pay your sitter anyway?” “That’s an outrage! I remember sitting for $1 an hour!!” There is nothing so exciting as talking about whomever is watching your children. You are just happy it’s not you at the moment. That’s reason enough for another drink.

Basically we talked. Drank some wine. Went pee. Talked some more. Thought about dancing. Went pee again. Drank some wine. Gawked at the young blonde women (I use the term women as loosely as they presented themselves) dirty dirty dancing with each other and their male counterparts. Went pee for a third time in one hour. Talked about how often we go pee. It was significantly more insightful than college pub conversations.

I’m sure it’s my memory failing me due to old age, but I don’t recall bars being so loud. They were loud of course, but I don’t remember losing my voice after the second sentence of my first conversation back in my twenties. That’s before the band started playing. I also don’t remember this ringing in my ears. I’m not sure if I’ve damaged my ear drums or if it’s the ringing of silence I’m hearing. I recall nodding a bunch that evening; smiling and nodding and I couldn’t tell you what some people were even talking about. For all I know they could have said to me, “So, I see your belly is hanging over your low-waisted pants a little and it looks as though you are trying to be cool, but you’re really not pulling it off are you?” and I would have nodded, smiled, and yelled, “Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more!” It’s also difficult to be funny when it’s that loud because a punch line really needs more than an audience of one and it sure as hell isn’t funny on the repeat. After someone asks, “WHAT?” for the second time, you might as well move onto the next joke. Funny is over. Take another drink.

But my throat hurts from trying to hold conversations at 130 decibels. “Pain begins” 125 db, which is how I’m estimating the level I must have been trying to talk over. Because my ears and throat are definitely in pain. I don’t remember needing Ibuprofen when I got home from the bar in college, unless it was a preventative measure trying to stave off a potential hangover. We were nothing if not prepared for the potential hangover. In my responsible mom-status I nursed two glasses of wine while interspersing sips of ice water just to keep me level headed and sans headache in the morning. There is no better definition of hell than having a hangover and having to take care of three kids and do chores. Oh and go to church. You can’t miss church for a hangover, because I think its like, a double sin or something. Even if Jesus did turn water to wine at Cana.

We danced to popular music back in college.
I’m on the dance floor. I’m dancing with the ladies. We’re jiving to 80’s and 90’s music sung by a band called Mid Life Crisis (MLC). That’s a band people our age can really love. It was reassuring to see all members of this male group were not only rocking their guitars, but grey hair as well. We were in our element, dancing as if we were back in college. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see any twenty-something’s moving their bodies in quite the same way we were. For one thing there were less arms. Our generation liked to use arms. Young people prefer to hold their drink in one hand and their cell phone in the other. Not us. Ours are way above our head moving back and forth in wave like motion. During the band’s 20 minute break, the DJ started up. More mom favorites were on the way, as we danced to “Party in the USA” and a song by Justin Beiber, mostly because these songs are on our children’s ipod playlists and we know them by heart. Looking around, all the twenty-somethings are standing on the dance floor swilling their beverages as they wait for the “kiddy” songs to pass and so they can gyrate to something significantly more popular and obscene.

We know when to call it quits.
I’ll say that the majority of us at the party knew when to call it a night. The birthday girl and some of her close friends closed the place down, but I’m pretty sure no one was heaving on their shoes when they left. And it was her 40th birthday for heaven’s sake. Everyone should stay up past one o’clock on their 40th birthday because there is a good chance you won’t see the likes of that hour again unless your basement’s flooding, a natural disaster hits, or you are waiting for one of your errant children to come home from a date.

Most of us though knew when to say uncle. We stopped drinking because it’s prudent and we know how we’ll feel in the morning, unlike our days in college when you kept drinking because it was nickel drinks after 10 p.m. THEY ARE ONLY A NICKEL!! What you didn’t realize in college (or maybe we were just too stupid to care) is that you would have paid a million dollars the next day for someone to ectomy your pounding head and heaving guts. And despite what the urban legend is, eating saltines before bed does not soak up all the alcohol and make you sober and sans hangover in the morning.

By 11:30 people were starting to leave, claiming unless they went home to relieve the babysitter they would have to take a second mortgage out on the house to cover her $13 dollar an hour fee. My feet hurt. My head hurt. I had a great time, but I was ready for the silence of my partially clean living room and the thick nap of my drawstring pants. I asked the friend I came with, “Are you okay to drive home?” I was trying to be funny. She nursed two glasses of wine same as me, but that’s the question you ask anyone who’s leaving a bar, so I asked it, even though I knew she was. She replied:

“Well, I am a little tired..”

There it was folks. The nail in the coffin.You know you are officially past your prime pub days when your concern shifts from driving drunk to driving while fatigued. I took my boots off outside the restaurant and walked back to the vehicle in my socks. We slid our tired butts into her blazing red mom van outfitted with three car seat boosters and headed for home. It was nice to pretend for an evening and live a little longer with the illusion that I could still pull it off if I had to.

Good thing I don't have to very often.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ear Candy

We’re almost to the end of our spring break—I’ve survived for the most part. When people ask me what our plans are for the vacation, I’m always responding with, “nothing,” and that’s just fine with the kids. They would rather hang out and play with friends that live close by than do just about anything else. Fine by me. We’ve picnicked in the yard, went bowling, planted flowers, and I’ve let the kids have the run of their videogames with (almost) no limitations set forth by me. It’s a vacation after all.

I will admit that having everyone home hasn’t left me with much time to myself, or time to blog for that matter. That’s my excuse for reneging on my every-other-day vow. I’ know you’ve been wanting one.

Jumping topics, my daughter has a birthday party to go to this afternoon, one she has been looking forward to for quite some time. I got a call from another mother this morning, asking if my 9-year old would be able to come to her daughter’s birthday this coming Sunday. Yes, it’s late notice, she knows, and she’s so sorry, but she didn’t have my address, you see. She even called herself a “train wreck.” I’m telling you I liked this woman right away. I assured her that we had no plans, my daughter would love to go, and not to worry about the last minute invite, that I myself have been guilty of the very same thing. I could be best friends with anyone who admits to being a train wreck-that’s just the kind of admission I admire.

I’ve mentioned before, my daughter’s propensity for all things crafty. He love of glue, scissors, and odds and ends. Her ability to check out a library book on card making, paper crafts, or cooking, and actually follow the directions and create quite a few new projects. I think I have also mentioned my daughter’s clothing choices before; how very often her socks and clothing don’t match. At all. Cobalt basketball shorts paired with a cotton floral print t-shirt. Stripes and dots. Summer and winter wear worn simultaneously. I’ve let the girl do her thing and have never made a comment about her wardrobe figuring that she’ll be self-conscious soon enough. Might as well give her some confidence before jr. high hits.

I mention these things because her latest creative project is making earrings. Out of candy. The Easter bunny brought her a packet of earring backs from the craft store (in Bunnyville of course) and she’s gone nuts ever since. She has used Starbursts, bubble gum, Smarties, Jolly Ranchers, Tootsie rolls. She has also made earrings out of metallic chenille stems, wooden beads, and metal trinkets from an old necklace.

After wearing the bubble gum earrings to school, she came home saying that many girls in her class put “an order in” for similar earrings and she was actually able to fulfill a few of these orders. After a particularly stressful night trying to make a pair, I asked “Just how many pairs of earrings are you trying to make?”

“A pair for each girl in my class,” she said.

“That’s just not possible,” I replied, although with their popularity I’m thinking maybe I should design her some business cards and have her start earning her college tuition. Or perhaps start contributing to the family food bill. But I’m pretty sure they frown on children running businesses in between math and science lessons. Some foolishness about labor laws I think.

We agreed that she would be able to make earrings for her friends for their birthday or other special occasion. This afternoon my daughter assembled four pairs of ear candy to give to her friend as a birthday present. We’ll need to brainstorm together about how to use gummy candies for earrings; I’m too nervous they’ll get sticky and end up in a fruity hair wad encouraging the wrath of other parents. Not good.

But until she has her own storefront, I’ve told her she can’t quit school and forsake her homework to string bubble gum on stretchy string and attach them to earring backs. She could easily surpass my contribution to the family income by selling these gems, but there is a time and a place. I have to admit I get a warm satisfaction down in my tummy-button knowing my daughter loves to create something from nothing. She gets that from me. I’m hoping this benefit is large enough to offset the other traits she gets from me, namely her tendency towards moodiness and overall drama-laden emotional plunges. This talent has got to be engraved in her DNA somewhere, because I can tell you I haven’t worn anything creative or homemade since my senior year in high school. My wardrobe consists pretty solidly of jeans and cotton t-shirts, ratty pajamas and a thick blue bathrobe I’ve been known to wear over my clothes during the day when I am cold. The girl has picked up no inspiration from me I can assure you. For those of you who knew my in high school, it’s just validates that old saying:

The apple don’t fall too far from the tree.

In this one particular case, it’s a good thing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eleven-Year Old Gifts

I have officially survived my son’s 11th birthday party. I think I rather like the older-kid parties because they are a lot easier to plan. Everything’s a trade off, and the time you save not purchasing goody bags, themed paper plates and accoutrements, you must add to the bottomless well of your patience. Must have patience. And ear plugs.

Honestly I don’t think I’ve seen my son this happy since he got his DS for Christmas, or since he got his XBOX 360 the Christmas before that, or perhaps even when he got his first Gameboy in 3rd grade. He has told me he loves me 27 times (at last count) since yesterday afternoon at 1:30 when his friends came over. He has complimented every meal, and has remarked how wonderful this birthday party is incessantly. Now I know exactly how to make my son happy:
Give him everything he wants.
No problem.

His birthday requests weren’t really all that difficult. Four of his friends met here yesterday afternoon, all wielding hand held gaming systems. It was a peacock moment as the boys eyed up their gaming systems, their games, their game cases and holders, and proceeded to have a verbal pissing contest about who could kick who’s butt in what game. This deeply intellectual conversation took place in our upstairs living room whose ceilings I have now discovered are way too low and are not acoustically sufficient. Their loud, boisterous voices reverberated off the ceiling and walls like a game of Break Out. Yes, even I, videogame hater, was cool enough to play them at one time. Even if it was back when Aqua Net was the hairspray of choice.
Before we left for our next activity, Eli opened up his birthday presents, all flat envelopes containing Game Stop gift cards. The boy was like a starved child who suddenly found himself in front of a free food buffet, and I was thrilled that I didn’t have to fork over money for his video games. I loaded the boys up—with their hand held devices mind you—for the very LONG drive to play laser tag.

For the next twenty minutes, the noise in the car went something like this:


In fact, quite a few times the noise level actually made me flinch. I’m pretty sure they were talking about video games during that ride, although they could have been speaking Latin or even some Aboriginal dialect as far as I could tell. Most of the words and names they were using were completely foreign to me. Whatever. As long as it wasn’t foul or swear words I was happy. Crap was about the worst that flew around the van. And idiot. But I think they were referring to their Pokemon.

Laser Tag turned out to be a huge hit, and the boys had tickets to play 8 games each. The rounds are only 7 minutes long so I figured 56 minutes of laser tag would be sufficient. Turns out after all the running around in there, smoke in their eyes, living a hunt-them-and-shoot-them video game fantasy, these boys were toast after only four games. Four. I now have twenty games to play at a later date. Then they moved onto the arcade.

I’m not sure what the thrill of arcade games is for children. I suppose it is fun to play a game, try to rack up a high score and then watch tickets shoot out the machine, whereby you feel incredibly adept at skeet ball or throwing balls into hoops. They don’t search out the games that are fun to play, but ones that will give you the most tickets. After their tokens are finished (I’ve replenished them twice mind you) the boys walk up to me mummied in tickets wrapped around their heads, necks, hanging from their arms, trailing behind them on the floor, and proceed to brag about all the fine things they are going to get at the ticket redemption counter. I’m sure they have visions of miniature army tanks with moving cannons, big stuffed animals in neon colors, and super soaker water guns. After all, some of these boys have over 250 tickets. Surely that must be enough to get the good prizes.

But they walk back to my home-base table with….a couple whoopee cushions, a gold happy face ring, little rubber diaphragm-looking “poppers,” and puffer-fish shaped inflated gel balls.
“Where’s all your prizes?” I inquire.
“Right here,” they announce.

Of course, my son gets the inflatable gel ball with a hole in it, so as soon as he steps away from the counter, the guy deflates. He tries to ask for a new one, but the (please forgive me) rather large, not-so-happy carnie behind the counter won’t give him a new one. “It was fine when you got it. You put a hole in it. I’m not exchanging it,” he says (granted, that’s my son retelling me the story.) Now, this piece of crap inflatable gel ball is probably available from Oriental Trading Company-for about 23 cents each. I’m not going to argue with Mr. Smiley, but what I want to say is, “Seriously? I just paid forty dollars for that fantastic prize with a defect and you can’t trade the boy out for a 23 cent replacement? Did you personally go over to China and carry back all these prizes stuffed into your sweat suit making them worth more than forty dollars?” But I shut my mouth and used it as a lesson to teach Eli that this was NOT an event-ruining moment, that it was a dollar store item and gee, wasn’t it so much fun playing laser tag. He agreed it was. (But he brought up what a raw deal he got on the popped prize at least five more times that evening.)

Upon returning home, I took the boys to Game Stop so my son could spend the gift cards that were smoking up the pockets in his shorts. This was a good move on my parts, since he was able to use his cards immediately and I didn’t have to listen to him beg me to take him to the store until my ears bled.

For dinner we feasted on grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, French fries, a veggie platter, and grapes. Everyone was happy. Everyone was fed. Everyone played more video games after dinner.

The piece de résistance was a mint chocolate chip ice cream cake, made from scratch by moi. Yes, even the cakey part was made from scratch, and I took pictures. Mainly to serve as proof that I loved him when he’s an adult and can’t remember a solitary instance of my being nice.

Cake done, boys in pjs, they stayed downstairs and played video games, air hockey, and briefly watched a movie, before turning on the games again. At 12:45 I went downstairs to confirm they had followed my instructions to be in bed, asleep by midnight. As I rounded the corner to the darkened downstairs, I was greeted by four little faces glowing like aliens from the DS screens in front of their bulging eyeballs. When they realized I was standing there, slam, slam slam, slam, went the DS’s. It was too late to feign sleep—clearlyI caught them, but I simply gave them a verbal warning to leave them off and go to sleep. The next morning they informed me they went to bed about 2 a.m. Fine by me. I was asleep upstairs by that time. I’m no idiot.

All in all, I think my son had the best birthday of his life. Every detail was chosen by him; the menus, the cake, the activities, and the friends. It required very little on my part; no decorating, party bags, craft projects, or structured games. The best present I gave my son for his birthday was one he probably doesn’t even realize he loved best; an entire day, night, and following morning free of my mom-lessons, nagging reminders about how much time he spent playing video games, and a patient countenance that responded to his requests with, “Sure. No problem.” The truth?

It was an even more fabulous experience for me. And so much less stressful than how I usually roll. Maybe I need to adopt more of his easy going personality and be less of a micromanager. Maybe the person who left with the best gift on his birthday was me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Own Red Tent

Today is not the day to blog. But since I haven’t posted since Tuesday, I feel an obligation to you to post something, especially since I said I would do my best to blog at least every other day. As my mother always said, “Be careful what you ask for.”

It’s the beginning of the third week of the month and the third week of the month is not a good one for me. I am not rational. I am not level-headed. If I hear someone breathing wrong, there is a good chance this will incite me to yell. It is not a day (or week for that matter) to ask me too many questions, or need me in any way that requires even a tiny bit of effort on my part. And you can be damn sure I’m not going to cook anything.

Years ago, after a rant with my PCP that went something like, “I hate my kids I hate my life I hate my husband I hate where I live I hate my haircut I hate how my finger nail grows out with a split in it I hate the way the baseboards are always dusty I hate how my husband blinks I hate how the cat is fluffy” she decided I probably suffered from PMDD or pre-menstrual disphoric disorder. In other words, PMS with a really, really bad case of PMS.

That was some years back and since then I’d like to think my hormone levels have regulated themselves back to something more along the lines of your run-of-the-mill PMS. Maybe it’s the weather that also has me all messed up, because this particular third week of the month it seems like my PMDD symptoms are back. Mainly because I’m feeling like I hate my kids I hate my life I hate my husband I hate where I live I hate my haircut I hate how my finger nail grows out with a split in it I hate the way the baseboards are always dusty I hate how my husband blinks I hate how the cat is fluffy even though my cat kicked it two years ago.

Now I’m starting to cry. F’ing dead cat.

Just to be sure I’m still sane, I went online to check out the symptoms for PMDD, you know, to reassure my crying, unreasonable psyche that I’m normal and not experiencing anything out of the ordinary. Here’s what I found on the Google Health Website:

“The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS, but they are generally more severe and debilitating. Five or more of the following symptoms must be present:
  • Disinterest in daily activities and relationships
Is the fact that I don’t want to make dinner, fold laundry, or talk to my children considered ‘disinterest’ or occasional normal mom behavior?

  • Fatigue or low energy
After my two hour nap today, it took every ounce of strength I could muster to open my eye lids. Don’t even get me started about how long it took to put my slippers back on.

  • Feeling of sadness or hopelessness, possible suicidal thoughts
The good news here is that I’m not experiencing any suicidal thoughts, but I am seriously thinking about applying for a year-long sabbatical from this house. I am feeling some sadness at the fact that we’re not going anywhere exotic for spring break (or anywhere at all actually) and hopeless that my house will ever have more than two rooms that are clean simultaneously.

  • Feelings of tension or anxiety
This is pretty much how I live everyday. What’s wrong with tension and anxiety? They are practically my writing muses. They live on each shoulder. I wouldn’t even know how to wake up in the morning without Tension and Anxiety.

  • Feeling out of control
Yes. Practically my whole life. If this is a tell-tale sign of PMDD, then I’ve had it since I was 10 and while I was pregnant.

  • Food cravings or binge eating
Do the six M&M cookies I ate before dinner and the five I’m eating after dinner count as binge eating? Or that I want to eat anything from Paula Deen's cookbook?

  • Mood swings marked by periods of teariness
Doesn’t every wife cry when her husband calls and says he’s going to be late coming home from work? Or when the box of spaghetti falls onto the nasty floor? Or when you just missed Cooking with Paula Deen and now Rachael Ray is on and you CAN’T STAND Rachel Ray? I don’t think I’m an anomaly here.

  • Panic attacks
I know something about panic attacks and can safely say I haven’t had one in a really long time. Which makes me worry that I’m long overdue for one, which leaves me feeling our of control.

  • Persistent irritability or anger that affects other people
Affects how? I’d like them to clarify this because sometimes my persistent irritability and anger doesn’t affect anyone. Most of the time my family ignores me.

  • Trouble concentrating
I’m sorry,….what?

  • Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain
Maybe bloating is the reason my normal jeans are getting snug and I have a slight case of dun-lap disease. Yes, yes, it’s got to be bloating and not the cookies I’m binge eating.

  • Sleep disturbances
Like my two year old running into my room every 10 minutes during my nap when my son was supposed to be keeping an eye on her? The kids are a sleep disturbance for sure, but I’m not sure that a third person qualifies as a PMDD symptom. I’m happy to blame it on them though.

After reading the list of symptoms I’m no closer at knowing if what I’m experiencing is PMDD or just a normal case of the bad-day-blues. I can tell you that Leah, Rachel, and Dinah had the right idea escaping to a red tent for one week of every month. I could use my own red tent in the backyard right now; affixed with a large flat screen TV, a bucket of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, a comfy couch and cozy warm blanket for snuggling, and a mile-high stack of romantic comedies and chic flicks. And a kid-proof zipper.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Mom's Day Out

!!Squeamish Man Alert: Girlie Issues Discussed Below!!

Last night I shaved my legs and armpits, washed and dried my hair, and went to bed anticipating today. I woke up this morning, shoved my novel in my purse, got the older two off to the bus, dressed my three year old (who walked out of this house with a pink shirt, black yoga pants, and a pair of bright yellow bloomers pulled up on the outside of her breeches ) and dropped her off at the neighbors. With giddy anticipation, I pulled out of the neighbor’s driveway and headed to Starbucks, to indulge myself in my favorite mom treat: a venti half-caf two-pump mocha latte. Four dollars worth of mocha chocolately goodness; a treat I don’t indulge in very often any more because my thighs were starting to resemble turkey drumsticks of Renaissance proportions.

Headed down the street towards my morning destinations: Shopping? Lunch with friends? A rendezvous with my husband? Nope, nothing that exciting, just an appointment with my chiropractor and OB/Gyn.

It’s a sad day when going to the doctor’s office is tantamount to mom’s day out. I can justify asking my constantly benevolent neighbors to watch my daughter when I need to work or when I have to go to the doctor, since working helps to pay the bills and the doctor, well, I don’t think age three is the right time to introduce her to the world of stirrups—at least ones that aren’t attached to a saddle and belted to the back of an animal that neighs. I cannot bring myself however, to leave my daughter in the care of someone else in order to go shopping (unless that someone else is my husband which is altogether different). That just feels a little too Housewives of New York City for me. “Here watch my kid for a few hours while I go rummage around the Christmas Tree Shop,” makes me feel a tad shady.

But with a doctor’s office excuse, a day out it was, and I started the morning with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Obviously the latte was the exciting part (another sad statement) and the thought that I might be able to catch up on my current novel (downright pitiful). The trepidation part was knowing that after my 10 minute neck and hip manipulation, I was going to have to visit the dreaded Ob/Gyn.

I think going to the Gyn-ie doctor doesn’t rank high on most women’s list of Fun Things To Do. In fact it’s utterly unfair that men don’t have to go to a man-specialist to get their urethra swabbed annually, which is the closest thing akin to a pap smear I can think of. My physician is great and a very nice man, but when you are sheathed solely in a tissue-thin, crisp-folded Johnny, heels cupped in metal stirrups, and edged all the way down to the “end of the chair please,” it just feels humiliating. Yeah, yeah, it’s a necessary evil, I get it, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less embarrassing. Unless of course, you have gas.

Because of all the mornings in all the days of all the months of this year, I realize as I’m sitting in the very small exam room that I’m gassy. Maybe this wasn’t the morning to suck down a venti-sized coffee filled with dairy product. The good news is that I experience my first tummy rumblings before I’m undressed. I slip out the room, visit the parlor, and guess what? No gas. None. Not even when I try really hard. My face is red, my abs are tight, and I’m giving my body every fair opportunity to do it’s thing. Not even a blip.

Reassured, I head back to the exam room, change into the Johnny, and resume my seat up on the pleather, paper lined table-chair. The rumblings start again. Damnit. What to do? I can’t really head to the bathroom again with my arse hanging out the back of the stylish garb I’m wearing, and I can’t really relax and let things go (as it were) because the room is so small and there is no fan. No air freshener. Not even a spare pack of matches lying around. Holding it in, I run the risk of something accidentally slipping out unbidden, right while my very nice OB/Gyn is performing his medical due diligence. In fact, the whole exam passed relatively quickly because the only thing running through my brain was, Do not relax. Do not relax. Hold it in. You can do this. You’re almost done. Three more minutes. You will never be able to set foot in this office again if you relax. My doctor could have told me that the reason for my “lower left quadrant discomfort” was a rusted Volvo he found lodged in between my uterus and my ovary, or that the cause for my jumping-jack induced urinary episodes were a result of a runaway circus clown honking my bladder while trying to make my other organs laugh, and I would have just nodded. That’s how hard I was concentrating.

Yes, I know, this doctor delivered my youngest girl and no doubt witnessed all kinds of horrors on the other side of the white sheet that I prefer to not think about. But that was different. Delivering my baby was the point, no matter what else came out with it.
You’ll be glad to know I made it through the appointment with my dignity in tact, although I have to go back next Friday for an ultrasound. The good news is it’ll be another mom’s day out—two in one week!! This time I’ll remember to treat myself with the venti mocha after my appointment. Lesson learned.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Buh-Bye Sasquatch; Until Next Week…

I started this morning with one goal: to clean the master bedroom. For some reason our master bedroom has been the go-to dumping ground for the twelve blissful years I’ve been married. I’m not laying blame anywhere-honestly it’s mostly me. Cleaning rooms in the house is on a priority system:
  1. The living room, kitchen, and entryway since this is what anyone who comes to the house will see upon first impression.
  2. The hall bathroom since hypothetical guests could potentially use it, however you remember what happened the last time I only cleaned the hall bathroom. That’s right, my son took it over and the guest used the dirty bathroom downstairs. Now it’s on the list, moved in with the hall commode at #2.
  3. The kid’s rooms. Mostly because their friends are over playing, we need to find homework, or I’m tired of twisting my ankle on clarinet cases and glitter balls at 10 p.m. when trying to say goodnight to the kids.
  4. The office and toy room. I’m not really motivated to clean these rooms, mainly because the toy room always looks like a garage sale gone bad, and the office is attached to it. I figure the kids need at least one room to be messy in, and I work so sporadically from my office desk (preferring to sit upstairs and type on the couch) it’s not a huge motivator. This, and I can blame the entire contents and state of those rooms on my children, not my lack of housekeeping.
  5. The master bathroom. I don’t use this and rarely clean it. The master bathroom was the architect’s way of “sticking it to the man” since it is so small we should refer to it as the Toilet Closet. A moment of visualization: when my husband is shaving, his stomach touches the sink while his butt grazes the back wall. It’s a thumbnail of a bathroom if ever I’ve seen one and I quit using it about two weeks after moving in. There is something nice about taking a shower without your elbows hitting the tiles as you wash your hair. Call me a princess. So this reigns unimportant at #5.
  6. Master bedroom. Here it is. Finally. This is where I’ve relegated the main sleeping room in our home. Way down here at number six. Now all I need to mention is that in the last 10 months I’ve only ever made it to #4. The reason it's here and not before the master bathroom (which I rarely clean) is that the bathroom tends to stink first. Just so you know what I'm dealing with. If it doesn't stink and noone's going to see it, why bother cleaning it?
That saying “it gets worse before it gets better” never applied more than when cleaning this room. There were seven loads of dirty laundry heaped in the center of the room which I sorted into colorful piles in the hallway. I vacuumed the floors and then dusted and washed them with the Swiffer. I dusted all surfaces in the room which required me to move all the crap from the dresser onto the bed. The sheets need to be changed, but I can’t do that until the floor has dried and I trash/organize/put things back on the dressers not to mention wash all the laundry since we only use one set of sheets. The floors are bare and clean, but my hallway is now inaccessible due to the laundry piles, vacuum, laundry hamper, bag of trash, and bag for the attic. I’m two loads of laundry in and the clean piles are now heaped onto the beloved pool table downstairs that now serves as laundry-folding-central-station.

I’m also battered-dipped head-to-toe in fuzzy, dusty, lint from slaying the Sasquatch under my bed. I think I’ve mentioned him before. He’ll be back all too soon though—no more than a couple weeks—since the weather is nice and the windows are open. I’m wearing a black long sleeved shirt. Note to self: black shirt is  not preferred cleaning wardrobe, unless you are planning on attending a costume party dressed as a used Swiffer pad. Which would probably win you a Most Creative Costume award.

I’m going to clean it right since another 6-8 months will pass before this room feels the soft cloth on it’s hardwoods, or is tickled by the wet mop again.


So here it is. The final room. I know, you're asking yourself, "What kind of self-aggrandizing sicko takes pictures of results from cleaning? Isn't that her job as a stay-at-home mother?" Well I'd counter that with "What kind of self-depricating sicko admits to the world that she only cleans her bedroom once annually?" It's not to boast; rather it serves as CYA documentation to child protection agencies who may suspect my children live in filfth and squalor daily, and also as photographic proof that my bedroom at one time in history was clean. Chances are good if you come visit, instead showing you the bedroom during the house tour I'll simply point to the 8x10 glossies on the door and assure you there's nothing illegal going back there. Enjoy it while you can.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fortunately It’s Going to Be Sunny. Unfortunately…

(Thanks to Remy Charlip and his book Fortunately for the inspiration for this blog.)

The forecast for the next 8 days or so reveals mostly sunny skies, no rain, and temperatures in the low 60’s. This is fantastic news. Fortunately, my garden needs to dry out, I need to start getting the backyard ready for outdoor eating and hanging out, and this may put a stop to my constant carping about the blasted weather.

Unfortunately, this many days of nice weather means I can no longer prolong the seasonal clothing switch for my children. This is a time-suck activity of enormous proportions, requiring me to wash vast amounts of laundry as I pack away all the winter shmear and garb now cluttering their closets. I do not want to do this. I’d rather get my teeth cleaned. Or scrub the toilets.

Fortunately, I have managed to resurrect enough pairs of t-shirts and shorts for each child to be appropriately clothed for approximately 2.5 days. (I found more shirts than pants.)

Unfortunately, the combinations of remnants do not match at all, which means I should be really careful about where I take my children in these outfits. Like not out in public at all. The other day I went to the grocery store only barely paying attention to their wardrobes, and as my daughter runs past me into the store, I notice she is wearing a tank top, Bermuda shorts, and her winter boots. Sigh.

Fortunately, they don’t seem to care.

Unfortunately, I’m right back where I started and need to dig the summer clothes out of the attic. I will have to force, coerce, cajole, and bribe my children to try on every blasted top and bottom to ascertain what exactly I will need to purchase this season.

Fortunately, the thought of my children scoring a new wardrobe is enough to motivate them to cooperate with me.

Unfortunately, it’s as I suspected—each child is able to retain a smattering of shirts with stains, shorts with holes in the arse, and one faded bathing suit each. All the decent looking stuff doesn’t fit at all. This of course means I will need to cash in yet more of their college IRA’s to buy new warm-weather clothing they will wear for one season.

Fortunately, I like to go shopping. While it will be difficult to part with the parcels of cash needed for this excursion, I will force myself to go to the mall and buy things while my children stay home with my husband. My job is tough, but someone has to do it.

Unfortunately, when I return after scoring great deals on clothing at Target, Children’s Place, and Kohl’s, I will be greeted with closets that are still full of winter clothing, leaving me absolutely no place to put the new spring/summer appropriate attire, which means I will have to bin-up last season’s outfits. This is a time-suck activity of enormous proportions, requiring me to wash vast amounts of laundry. I do not want to do this.

Fortunately, I have three bathrooms with dirty toilets. And you know how much I like to clean toilets.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Meet Kristi Marsh-

Kristi Marsh, Easton mom of three, is an amazing woman. We’ve chatted on numerous occasions at karate (where our children both go) or at Leggo league (where our sons were involved) and through email or Facebook. She’s probably one of the few women I’ve met who is bouncy, high energy, and whose brain tends to take off in tangential leaps running far faster than her mouth can keep up. She’s a lot like me in those respects and after she’s finished sharing her ideas and asks, “You know what I mean?” in breathless tones, I respond, “Yes!” I know what she means. Boy Howdy can I relate to that. Kristi is nothing if not full of spunk and life.

The exciting news is that Kristi is one of five finalists in Prevention Magazines Picture of Health Contest. She submitted a video essay to the contest and was one of five people chosen out of hundreds of applicants. The winner for the contest is decided by public vote-which you can do once a day until April 15th. Except of course, if you live in Arizona (like all my family). Apparently people who live in Arizona are not eligible to vote because it’s just too hot in that city. No honestly, I have no idea why people in Arizona can’t participate in choosing a winner, but that’s the rules. (I wonder if they can vote for American Idol or Dancing With The Stars? If so, I’m thinking this is discrimination of a kind I can’t name but will look into. Digression there, sorry…) The winner will be announced on the TV show The Doctors on April 29th. Besides appearing on the show, the winner also receives $5,000 for themselves, as well as $5,000 donated to a charity of their choosing. Kristi has chosen to support breast cancer research.

So why is her story so compelling? What is it about her that makes her special? Well, you might be thinking it has something to do with having chickens in her backyard. Anyone who has chickens (and therefore fresh eggs at their disposal) is a winner in my book. But it wasn’t her chickens. Motivated by what she went through when she beat an aggressive form of breast cancer at age 35, Kristi started an organization Choose Wiser whose mission is to “empower women to nurture a fresh, healthy, non-toxic lifestyle through interactive, uplifting workshops.” There are many different types of workshops you can sign up for, including "Creating a Healthy Home," "Book Club" workshops, and "What’s a Girl To Do?", a workshop that focuses on women’s cosmetics and beauty products.

I’ve attended the “What’s a Girl To Do?” workshop and was blown away with the information I left with. Who knew that there was lead in over 60% of lipsticks tested? Who knew that many nail polishes still contain there formaldehyde, toulene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which are a carcinogen, neurotoxin, and teratogen respectively? Obviously, not me. While in the workshop images of my three-year-old kept coming to my mind; covered in lipstick like the Joker and sporting shiny, painted nails that she sucks on because she likes the taste of the polish. It’s also the season for sunscreen and bug repellent, reminding me how last year the kids (and myself) coughed and choked during each spraying application of OFF Backwoods Repellent containing DEET. I might not be able to control every single product my children encounter, but there are simple things I can do to use more healthful products not only for myself, but for my girls who want to emulate me. And let’s face it, everyone wants to emulate me.

The thing I love about Kristi’s message and workshops is she’s not out to be an alarmist. It’s not a hell-and-brimstone beauty lecture where you leave feeling like you should have repented of your toxic products yesterday and need to confess your sinful love of shower gel from Bath and Body Works. They are feel-good workshops meant to empower you to start making simple choices. Everyday choices. Choices that take minimal effort but have huge benefits. Like purchasing nail polish without those toxic chemicals, which I did in shades of lime and turquoise for my daughter. I’m working on getting the lipstick out of her grip though. It’s a process.

She also has audio workshops on her website that you can listen to. Those are a fun way to get the information and not have to read! Kristi is also dedicated to creating a healthy home environment and not eating foods bathed in pesticides and chemicals. She’s an everyday mom and inspiration. Regardless of the outcome from Prevention’s contest, as far as I'm concerned she’s already won the battle. She's a strong, courageous woman who is going places. (But I still encourage you to vote for her once a day!)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The seedlings in my living room have just poked their tiny green heads out of the soil and are gathering strength for the life that is before them. They don’t know what future awaits them in my garden; whether wind and rain will batter them lifeless, or if sun and sprinkles will deepen their roots and inspire their rise towards the heavens. Whether the fruit they produce will be edible. Or full of worms and covered in slugs. Last year I celebrated the birth of many veggies, and mourned the loss of my blight-infested tomatoes and the zucchini that was lost to torrential winds. I am hopeful.

Spring is like that for me each year, trumping New Year’s as a starting point of possibility. I sit on my living room couch each morning, bathed in sunlight streaming through the greasy-kid-smudged picture window, drinking my coffee with whole milk and sugar, and things feel possible. Will this be the year I get paid more than $25 for an article? Will my dreams of carving a niche for myself in the writing world come to fruition? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I can sense the rumble of the rushing river below my feet, waiting to carry me towards my goals and the life I feel meant to live. If only I could tap it. I wonder how many people I know are “living the life they dreamed of” (to quote Thoreau) or who simply found themselves down a path they never imagined. I suppose my life is a little of both.

One thing I’ve come to embrace is the constant struggle that seems to pervade my life—not necessarily in a bad way—but a struggle for peace, or answers, or control. Switching careers in my late 30’s still seems a little bold, especially when you consider what I’ve chosen to do—write. It may have been easier for me to pursue a career in stand up comedy, which I’ve toyed with, or try to become the next Tina Fey. It’s no different for my husband either, who’s had in his mind a path he’s wanted to follow since the first time I met him. Together we have locked arms, put our heads down, and have charged against the wind for almost 12 years. We keep trudging. And though we have had some losses as well as gains, our garden continues to grow.

I’m not a selfish person (depending upon whom you ask I suppose) and I don’t want the whole pie. I’m not even asking for a big slice. I’d just like a bite big enough to feed my soul; and to help others in the process. Just a bite. That’s all.

But it’s spring. The smell of freshly mowed grass floats past, the mornings are full of bird song, and everything always feels possible. I am hopeful.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Now what?

I bet you are asking yourself that very question, Lent being over and all. Is Rachel going to back to blogging once a month or worse yet, once a quarter? Will I have anything to read with my morning coffee or late at night while I’m at work?

Well, I’m not going to promise to blog every single day, but I will attempt it. I’m going to do my best not to let more than one day go by without a new post. Blogging every other day is the very least I can do for you, since you all were so supportive about my Lenten project. It also gives you a chance to catch up on the reading, since I know it’s not possible for you to tune in every single day. Life is just like that.

This Lenten blog-a-thon has taught me a lot of things however. I have learned to look for blog opportunities all day and just because something seems inane or boring doesn’t mean it won’t make for a good post. There were times these last 40 days when coming up with material made me sweat actual letters: lowercase v’s and s’s, commas and exclamation marks, were draining out of my pores in hopes of finding a home on virtual paper somewhere, leaving me spent and exhausted. I didn’t always come up with something or may have been too tired to move my fingers along the keyboard, but there were times when I was successful. Creativity is a process that requires feeding, just like the pea seedlings in my garden. I can’t always come out to the garden expecting a harvest. There are times I’m really going to have to work on it. I mean I’m good, (sometimes damn near perfect) but I’m still going to have to give it some effort.

I also figured out that writing at night is not the best for me. Ideally my blog should be finished by 4 or 5 p.m. if it’s going to get posted without tears. Mine and my children’s. Once the kids come home and the night wanes on, there are too many things happening in the house to be productive at the keyboard. Plus I like to enjoy a glass of wine or perhaps a cold beer (now that Sam’s Summer is back, Hallelujah!) with dinner, which of course puts my muscles in slow motion and encourages my need for serious butt-time on the couch.

I’ve also come to terms with the fact that every blog can’t be a winner. Not every post will make you pee your pants with laughter or inspire people to comment, and some may be downright puny and uninteresting. But how is that any different from my life? To quote John Denver, “Some days are diamonds and some days are stones.” I can’t expect my blog to be different, especially since it’s a reflection of my life.

So continue to tune in. If you feel so inspired, post this link to your Facebook page and share with your friends. I’m also going to try to increase my readership for the remainder of this year and need your help to do that. Help me. Please, please help me. (Now you know exactly how my therapist feels.)

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Blessings

The Easter Bunny Santa came to our house this morning and the kids were thrilled. I was second guessing the baskets late last night, fearing they would be disappointed there wasn’t more candy. Or a chocolate bunny. My fears were unfounded as everyone loved their new outfits and shoes, changing into them as soon as we were home from church. The day was beyond beautiful; warm, sunny, and with a slight breeze. I was outside reading my book when up drove my neighbor across the street with a bag from Hilliards. These are the same neighbors who have taught me how to roast a whole chicken and a pot roast in the oven, how to make latkes—including purchasing me a bonafide latke potato grater—and who show up on my doorstep and drop off glasses of wine and appetizers. They were also the ones to call me out the first time I missed a day of blogging at the start of my Lenten offering, with an email whose subject line was, “Local Blogger Falls Off Wagon.” They are like the best parts of my parents, my friends, and my sisters all rolled into one fabulous couple we drink wine with. The two of them (I’ll call them J & A) are like our family. And we love them.

So up rolls J with a paper bag from Hilliards, our local chocolate and candy store. (Which freakishly enough is right next door to my dentist’s office, but I digress.) The kids swarm him like bees to a hive, but I hear him say, “This bag’s for mom.”

What? An Easter treat for moi?

He hands me the bag, I peek in and exclaim, “Chocolates? I love chocolates!.” Whereupon I proceed to open up the beautifully wrapped box. What do you think is inside?

You guessed it. A SOLID DARK CHOCOLATE EASTER BUNNY the size of my hand. If I could have jumped up on J’s back without crushing his spine I would have done it.

A SOLID CHOCOLATE EASTER BUNNY THE SIZE OF MY HAND! I still can’t believe it. With a childish grin I went back to my seat in the yard, stripped the bunny down, bit off his ears, and you know what? His head didn’t break off. The chocolate didn’t suck. I’m pretty sure that I heard the angels in heaven singing. Another childhood dream fulfilled. Check.

A few hours later we headed off to another neighbor’s house for Easter linner. Or dunch. They really haven’t come up with a good word for lunch and dinner combined, which I don’t understand since “brunch” is such a basic word, but I digress again. It was a pretty sizeable crowd with 14 kids and about 12 adults, and the food and company was fabulous. The kids did an egg hunt and played wiffleball while the adults hung out and talked. It reminded me of the family gatherings we were able to be a part of when we lived in Arizona; houses full of family; aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and friends all laughing, joking, relaxing, and sharing about life. I love living here in Mass and wouldn’t change it for the world, (I can actually grow vegetables c’mon) but occasionally nostalgia creeps in and there is a longing for family festivities that is difficult to satisfy. That’s the one thing about living far away—holidays, birthdays, and special occasions with our loved ones are missed. Sometimes deeply.

(Flashback)…When we were looking to purchase a home upon first returning to the East Coast, we had originally put an offer on a house in New Hampshire. I loved everything about that house; the Gambrel style, the expansive rolling back yard, the quiet neighborhood street it faced. We had been living in a hotel room for about 2 months and the walls were closing in on me. We put an offer on this house, but ultimately ended up losing it. I vividly remember being so angry we had lost it; not only was there no end in sight to our hotel stay, but I couldn’t imagine ever finding another home I would love as much as that one. As controlling as I am and as angry as I was, I still felt like there was a reason we wouldn’t be living in New Hampshire, and trusted that God had a bigger plan, a reason we were supposed to live somewhere else.

Relax, this isn’t the part where I jump on the couch and start speaking in tongues, I’m just saying there are times when you just have to trust in His providence and finding our home was just such a situation.

(Real time…) Almost four years later I know with certainty that our current home is the place we were meant to live. It sat vacant for over a year before we purchased it, which was at the boom of the housing market and located on our street—a long, quiet, culdesac that would be inviting to just about anyone. I truly believe it was waiting for us to find it. And find it we did.

The house was perfect in everyway, the yard large enough for a garden. The street was full of mature trees that sprinkled summer’s shadows on the ground and turned to beautiful autumn colors in the fall. The floors were newly refinished, the walls freshly painted, and (at the time) each kid had their own bedroom. Did I mention the fabulous screened porch off the back?

We loved the house, but looking back I know that’s not why we were supposed to live here. Because the most important reasons we love our home, are the neighbors who surround us. My children have formed friendships with other kids on our street and the street behind us that will last a lifetime. They run from yard to yard in relative freedom and safety, enjoying the kind of childhood I had always hoped to give them. We have gotten to know almost every person on our street extremely well; sharing and borrowing tools and sugar, helping pump basements, laughing over beers, venting over coffee, and supporting those in need with hot meals. My children know if there was ever an emergency they could go to just about any person’s home and receive help. It is Wisteria Lane, without the drama.

Today two of our closest neighbors blessed us with chocolate bunnies and Easter linner. They loved us like family and included us in their celebrations. They were and are, our family away from family. We may love them differently than our biological relations in Arizona and West Virigina, but we love them just as deeply. Their presence in our lives makes our life complete and living in this house on this street wouldn’t be the same without them.

So thank you neighbors, for blessing us in so many ways all the time, but especially on this Easter Sunday. I am humbled.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Easter Santa

One of the things I remember so fondly from my childhood was the fabulous Easter baskets my mother would put together for us. Of course there was the functional basket stuffers of socks or underwear in pretty shades of pink, purple, and sea foam green (my mother is nothing if not functional-minded), and a few small items, toys, or miniature stuffed animals. There was a fair amount of candy in those baskets, and while I loved them, one thing that was always missing was a solid chocolate Easter bunny. A few times I received a hollow chocolate Easter bunny which I didn’t discover until I had taken my first bite expecting some thick chocolaty resistance, only to have snapped off the entire head and was staring down into his empty neck. I asked once why I never got a solid chocolate bunny and mom said something to the effect of, “Because you don’t need that much chocolate and it’s crappy chocolate anyway.” She may not have said crappy but she surely implied it. She isn’t just functional; she’s also a bonafide good-chocolate snob. As a kid I resented this. As an adult I totally agree.

I’m one of those moms who love holidays such as this (yes of course because it’s a very important religious holiday for Christians everywhere) because of all the fun things I get to do for the kids. I enjoy the Easter basket filler shopping trip, planning a fun breakfast after church, and of course, stocking up on chocolate. As a newer mom, I loaded my kid’s baskets with cute pencils, bunny shaped erasers that don’t really erase, playdoh, silly putty, army men, notepads, bouncy balls, bubbles and the like. The first place I would stop is the Dollar Store and what I couldn’t find there I purchased at Target. My small children were so thrilled with their baskets, oohing and ahhing at all the small, plastic, Made In China accoutrements, and had a whiz-bang time playing and opening and eating their way through them.

And then they got older. And so did I. I’m not sure what year it was, but I realized that the day after Easter no one gave a rats-ass about the cute little toys the Easter Bunny brought them. Those balls, card sets, notepads, and erasers ended up on my floor, under their desk, in the hutch drawers, their laundry baskets and wedged between the couch cushions. A few weeks later, tired of trying to corral them all back to the correct child-owner, I simply started trashing the stuff. I could have saved myself a lot of time simply putting $100.00 in the garbage and not looking back. You know what? They never missed it. They didn’t notice the stuff was gone and they’ve never asked me about a missing toy.

I stopped buying the cheap junk one year and started buying each kid a spring outfit. This served two purposes: it provided them something for their baskets, and inevitably I hadn’t done the seasonal clothing switch, so it gave them something to wear while the weather was nice. (There’s no secret that I have a huge streak of my mother’s functionality.) While the kids were fine with this and didn’t miss the small stuff, it set the stage for Easter to now feel a little like Christmas, with them expecting bigger presents every year. This year my son asked if there was a chance that the “Easter Bunny” (as said in his air quotes) could bring him a new DS game. “This isn’t Christmas,” I retorted. “You don’t get big presents.” I’m pretty sure that the Easter Bunny song doesn’t go, “Here comes Peter Cotton Tail/hopping down the bunny trail/giving out big presents on the way.”

Well, up the boy grew and now he’s in a 10-12 and those clothes are not cheap. T-shirts and shorts were on sale at Kohls for….$19.00 each. Which is $38.00 for one outfit. The toddler clothes were $6 bucks each for tops or bottoms, and feeling like I should keep things monetarily equal, I walked away with three Capri pants and three interchangeable shirts. My oldest daughter’s clothes were also on sale for $8 bucks each piece, so she is getting two capri’s and two tops. Well, you can’t have cute spring outfits and run around in your winter boots, so I also scored two pairs of flip-flops for my oldest girl and a pair of Dora sandals that light up just like my baby’s face did when she saw them. I now had to find my son a pair of shoes and he doesn’t wear flip flops. I know this because the ones I bought him last year are still in his closet and in fabulous shape. He wears tennis shoes everyday and he’s needed new shoes for some time now. The last time I “fixed” them I super glued the rubber soles back to the shoe part and now (months later) they’ve come undone again. That and his toes have broken through the end. I found a pair of skater-type shoes, black of course with double laces, on sale for…..$40.00.

Now I’ve just spent $80.00 on one outfit and a pair of shoes for my son to go in his Easter basket after telling him that Easter isn’t a time for big presents. While he does need these items, he will never make the connection that I’m using Easter as an opportunity to provide him things I was going to get him anyway, and he’ll now anticipate more and bigger gifts each year. I’m thinking that I could have gotten off easy by purchasing him his one requested DS game and he would have been hippity-hoppity happy. This is one of those times when my functionality has bitten me in the bunny-tail. Thanks mom. Oh, and I didn’t get them a solid chocolate bunny either. My kids don’t need that much chocolate.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I Loved Lucy

The other day my daughter had her first play date with a friend from class. It’s the same play date I forgot to pick her up from, so it’s already a memorable occasion for my daughter. When I arrived at her friend’s house I had a fabulous chat with her mother, who I liked very much and is very down to earth. A quick glance around her home revealed two things: 1) the house was extremely neat, clean, and tidy and 2) I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to have her daughter over without giving my home the “first book club meeting” kind of clean. While sitting at our table later that evening my daughter said to me, “Mom, do you think their house is always that clean?” “I’m not sure,” was my response. A few minutes passed before she said, “Do you think we can ever get our house keeper back?” It’s amazing how a 9 year-old girl knows exactly where a verbal knife wound bleeds the most.

I’m wondering if there is any way I can get our medical insurance to pay for having a house keeper since it is causing my daughter emotional anxiety to live in our current state of “Crapville.” Most insurances cover therapy, so having a housekeeper could actually be considered a preventative wellness measure. Unfortunately for my daughter, a good portion of the reason the house is in its current condition is because of her desire to create things using small bits of paper, wire, beads, tin foil, sharpies, scissors, and glue sticks. The entire house isn’t her fault, but a good portion of the toy room is.

Sigh. Sigh again. I’d LOVE to reinstate a house cleaner and relive those fabulous months two years ago when someone came to our house bimonthly and cleaned it. That period of time ranks right up there with my wedding day and honeymoon—some of the best days in my life. I know I have no business having housekeeper when I stay at home with my kids. Isn’t that part of the stay-at-home job description: “Shall keep all surfaces cleaned and spotless with your own effort?” If it’s not written in the chapter titled “How to be Perfect” I’m pretty sure it's implied. I’m betting that many-a domestic engineer has herself a person to clean the house, but you won’t hear her shouting it from the rooftops. At least not in the circles I run in.

I recall with baby-picture-fondness those glorious moments when Lucy* came and how she changed the entire dynamic of our family. My children would come home from school, throw open the front door, take a deep, long inhale and exclaim with Christmas excitement, “LUCY CAME TODAY!!” They would walk into their rooms, fan open their arms and with heads thrown back, twirl in the free space on their carpets in Sound of Music fashion. Even my husband came home from work, opened the door, and had a look of instant pleasure on his face. “How much does this cost again?” he queried as he lay in his neatly pressed bed, reading a book.” After I told him, he smiled. “That’s really worth it.” This is a huge statement for my husband, who’s hardwired to perform all tasks himself and make things we need by hand in order to save money. The kids were happy. My husband was happy. I was delirious with joy all the time.

Then the recession hit. We said goodbye to Lucy and hello to the life we currently live. Don’t get me wrong, I had grand ideas about how I was going to keep the house up just like Lucy: one day a week my friend on the street and I would exchange children for four hours or so while the other person flew through their house with Windex, Murphy’s Oil Soap, rags, brooms, and mops. We’d dust, vacuum, clean the toilet bowls, wipe the baseboards, make all the beds, in the few hours we were childless. It would be easy. It would be cheap. The house would be clean.

I think that we ended up exchanging children a total of twice. I must say that during those two times I actually cleaned this house top to bottom in three hours, a total record. I had to prep by swilling four cups of strong coffee, blasting the cleaning music, and when I finished I was out of breath and panting, but it happened. It probably hasn’t happened that well since. It also gave me a new appreciation for all that Lucy did in the four hours she was at my home, and confirmed yet again, that I really, really, hate to clean.

Tomorrow is another day—one we are starting with chores written on strips and placed in a bucket for the kids to draw from. There will be a significant amount of whining, complaining, stomping, muttering-under-the-breath, and general parental hatred going on tomorrow morning. We didn’t experience the breadth of these emotional disturbances in quite this way when Lucy was a part of our lives. I’ll just tell my kids that tomorrow’s cleaning session is simply a proactive mental wellness exercise to prevent more years in counseling because of having to live in filth and squalor. For my part, all I have to say is, “Lucy, I miss you.”