Monday, December 5, 2016

Miscellaneous Early December Whining

Every day, the kids ask me when their fucking Elf-on-the-Shelf is going to come back and I make some sort of excuse like, “Not until after your father’s birthday” to placate them, but TODAY is after their father’s birthday and I forgot that damned elf this morning.  So I guess Cheese the Elf comes this afternoon, along with three board games I bought on super sale: Connect4, Monopoly Jr (to keep them from getting out the real Monopoly and spreading all that fake money and tiny figurines around the house), and Trouble.  The board games are to help keep us all somewhat sane during this season of wet/cold/cabin fever.  They might work better to keep the peace if a feisty two-year-old who is teething his molars didn’t routinely knock the boards off the table because he’s posessed by a wee demon.  There is no peace when a two-year-old is awake.

 

I vacuum almost every day, not because I want to, but because my yard is a mud pit and that dog, that hyperactive lab puppy, has three speeds: on, off, and throw-the-ball-please-throw-the-ball-here-I’ll-bite-your-apron-strings-here-I-brought-you-the-ball-please-throw-the-ball-I’m-gonna-bark-please-throw-it-please-please-please-please-please.  In and out, in and out she goes, dragging half of the dirt in the yard back inside with her.  I haven’t been able to run with her for three weeks because, right before Tony left for the first of two multi-day business trips, Onyx and her best buddy (who outweighs her by 40 lbs) slammed into me at the dog park, spraining the ligaments in my left knee.  It hurts and I’m depressed because I’m laid up and I’ve been without Tony for awhile and parenting three monkeys alone is HARD.  And I haven’t been able to drink my cares away because he’s been gone and I do, honestly, try to be a responsible parent, and I can’t eat my cares away because I’m not exercising and let’s face it: I’m already riding the slow train to middle-aged spread; I don’t need to switch to the fast train where no one exercises and there are lots of holiday cookies for the taking.  I’m going to give blood today so I can justify some pasta and ice cream tonight.

 

Things reached a breaking point Wednesday when I forgot to pack Charles’s lunch.  Yes, yes I know he’s eight years old and he can take responsibility for his lunch, and he does – he grabs it from the refrigerator every morning and makes sure it and his homework and his binder are all in his backpack.  But I pack the lunches the night before because I don’t trust him to put vegetables in his lunch.  On Wednesday, all he got were carrots and an applesauce packet; I had forgotten to heat the chicken nuggets he requested and put them in his thermos in the morning.  I didn’t realize my mistake until I got home from work and errands close to 3 PM.  I sobbed, he forgave me, then he ate a sandwich and an apple and asked for ice cream.  Will I ever forgive myself?  Unlikely.

 

Thank God Tony is back for the foreseeable future.  He won’t help me with Christmas shopping, but he sure makes bedtime go a lot more smoothly.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Eight is Great

We hosted a slumber party the weekend before the election and, honestly, I didn’t think that one through AT ALL.  Our previous experience with slumber parties (my own childhood included) indicated that children would stay up so, so late and parents would be so, so tired, but did we heed this experience?  No.  Youth: wasted on the young.  And then on Tuesday, I alternated holding my phone and a glass of wine until Trump’s speech at midnight (I really feel for the people on the east coast!).  I got up the next morning super early, super tired, and just hungover enough to remember why I don’t often drink more than a glass or two at a time.  I don’t think I’ve caught up on sleep yet.

 

The occasion for the slumber party was Charles’s EIGHTH BIRTHDAY OMG.  We had planned to go to the park and play baseball with all of his friends, but it was raining, so I set up some games and crafts instead.  Perhaps predictably, the games and crafts (coloring masks! making mini-marshmallow-and-toothpick sculptures! that weird cookie-on-your-face game! cornhole in the living room!) held the attention of ten second-graders for all of five minutes and then they played freeze tag in the rain.  And then, somehow, the girls convinced the boys to play “house” for a good twenty minutes.  And then they just started running around the house screaming with no particular goal or play scenario that I could see.

 

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They scarfed pizza, they ate chocolate cake and key lime pie, and we sang.  There were presents.  The kids watched the baseball classic, Rookie of the Year.  The girls went home, the boys eventually passed out around midnight (adjusted for Daylight Saving Time, so it felt like 1 am), and they were up again playing video games and riding bikes outside by 6 am.  It was glorious.

 

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It is rewarding to know that Charles has so many friends who care enough about him to make his day special AND that they are good kids.  He’s eight, he can be a brat sometimes, but he’s a loving, kind boy who is positive and happy and he seems to surround himself with others who are like him.  That makes me happy.

 

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Perhaps you’d like to know what kinds of presents are most coveted and appreciated by an eight-year-old boy?  I find information like that helpful. Legos were, and always are, a big hit.  Baseball is huge for him right now, so baseball cards are currently filling every spare pocket and the occasional card makes it through the wash, especially since Charles does his own laundry and he’s not super diligent about checking pockets. Grandpa and Grandma gave him a really cool light/siren/sounds package for his bicycle, and he has declared it his “most favorite thing ever.”  I gave him books, several of them in Spanish, because I love him the most, but I’m also boring.

 

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This little goober is eight.  I can hardly believe it.

 

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2 Years Old is My Favorite

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I served baby bok choy and salmon for dinner the other night.  The bok choy was merely cooked in a little bit of olive oil; no seasoning of any sort.  Jamie, as I knew he would, soundly rejected it.  Eventually, he acquiesced to eating the dark leaves but not the light green crunchy part.  Charles ate his whole serving.  Freddie attacked the bok choy like a T Rex ripping flesh off of a Triceratops.  Huge bites, stuffing his mouth, asking and reaching for more before he’d finished chewing.  It was the damndest thing.

 

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I was playing floor hockey in the garage with a repurposed croquet mallet for a stick and a Bakugan Battle Brawler for a puck (as one does) a couple weeks ago when I heard shrieks of intense joy coming from the den downstairs.  Shrieks of joy are all well and good, but these went beyond the realm of normal and set my mom-sense tingling.  I opened the door to find Freddie standing on the coffee table, shaking a Costco-sized Pirate’s Booty bag in the air, giggling madly as the snack rained down around him and Onyx leaped to catch them in midair.  There was Pirate’s Booty EVERYWHERE.  My floors would probably still taste like cheese if one had a mind to run a tongue over the carpet.  I don’t recommend that, though.

 

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Evenings are total chaos in my house; between dinner and bedtime, kids go crazy, dinner has to be cleaned up, reading homework has to be finished, lunches have to be made, and kids have to be told to get their pajamas on at least a thousand times.  Freddie is usually in the thick of things, pushing his trucks at top speed through the kitchen, hiding behind the curtains and calling, “Mama!  I see ooo!”, trying to ride the dog like a horse, riding his rocking horse like a motorcycle through the kitchen (with enough rocking, it will move forward, a fact which delights young Fred to no end), dancing on the piano, or systematically dumping out the art box, the car box, the train box, and all the puzzles.  Given the state of our house post-dinner, and the fact that it is usually the first time Tony and I have a chance to talk all day, it’s not entirely surprising that Freddie was able to slip off by himself for awhile a few nights ago.  I looked up from whatever I was doing, said, “Where’s Freddie?” and proceeded to get blank stares from the rest of the family.  I followed the suspicious silence up the stairs to the locked bathroom door, behind which I could hear water running.  I yelled for Freddie and he didn’t respond.  I yelled for Tony, my heart in my throat, and he came running with the bathroom door key (one of those weird picks with the flat end WHY DO THEY MAKE BATHROOM LOCKS THAT WAY I ALWAYS LOSE THAT STUPID PIECE OF METAL).  We found Freddie in the bathroom, sitting on the counter just cool as a cucumber while the water ran full-force into a stoppered sink and flooded onto the floor.  My panicked pulse finally calmed down once he was safe in my arms for a solid twenty seconds (that’s near the world record for a squirmy toddler hug).

 

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Two-year-olds, I tell you.  It’s all jam hands and surprises.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Brainless Idiot

Buster has been gone for five months and I still miss him so much it hurts sometimes.  How can I explain to my children that I’m crying because I miss that mean, old bear and the way he’d wag his tail so hard his hind legs would dance off the ground each afternoon when I got home from work?  How can I convince my heart not to break each time I think of stroking his fur as we put him down?  He was a dog, for God’s sake.  Damn, but I miss him.

 

It doesn’t help that our new dog is SO STUPID.  Onyx is a total moron who runs her thick skull into walls, can’t find a treat that’s right in front of her face, and wants nothing more than for us to throw the ball ALL THE TIME. 

 

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Who, me?

 

Are you taking care of business in the bathroom?  She’ll drop her ball in your lap.  Are you a five-year-old learning to read, all curled up in the recliner at 7:45 PM, pajamas on, teeth brushed?  She will annoy the crap out of you by dropping her ball at your feet and repeatedly nudging it closer to your hands, even though the back door is closed and no prior incidents would indicate that you are at all inclined to pick up that ball and throw it.  Are you standing in the kitchen, hands clean, trying to make dinner?  Then Onyx-Bionix-Master-Idiot will eventually give up on the ball and will lie down right under your feet.  Right under them.

 

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Oh, you needed to do the dishes?  I’ll just wait right here until you can throw the ball.

 

Every night, she loses her ball under the couch and proceeds to bark at it until one of us retrieves it for her.  The other day, she dropped her ball in the toilet as soon as I had finished wiping my son’s butt… I hadn’t had a chance to flush yet.  She gets so excited when we go on a walk or a run that she jumps up and grabs the leash to walk herself.  We finally had to buy a leash woven with steel cable.  I’m not joking.

 

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She’s infuriating.

 

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There are advantages to having a dumb dog, sure, especially one who is universally submissing and has no prey drive whatsoever, but fuck, she is such an empty head.  I should have changed her name to “Dippy.” 

 

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It appears we’ve saddled ourselves with a brainless fart machine of a dog (and oh, can she clear a room).  It would help if she were a cuddler (except when she’s farting), but she’s not.  Here’s hoping I eventually grow to love the dumbass.

 

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

On Nudity and a Long Summer

As you might be aware, Tony, I mean WE, bought a boat this summer.  If I had romantic notions of spending my summer on the water, day-tripping out to the San Juans to hike and watch orcas, I was quickly disabused of them.  What really happened is Tony spent a boatload of time away from the family.  A boatload.

 

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My only boat trip.

 

The boat is older than he is, so regardless of its purported “great shape for its age,” it had problems (with the engine, with the bilge, with the battery, with the lights, with the boat things that all boats have, apparently) that needed to be remedied right quick.  This resulted in Tony working on the boat through most of the Independence Day weekend.  And then he took Jamie and Charles and went “fishing” (working on the boat at the dock) for an entire week in July.  Then he missed a family camping trip to attend a bachelor party (thank the dear Lord my parents went camping, too).  Then he went fishing again, three weekends in a row, in August, once leaving me with all three children for a weekend.  It’s a wonder we’re all still alive.

 

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This kid is one cute camper.

 

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This one turned FIVE.

 

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This one turned TWO (you can’t tell, but he totally has his hand in his diaper) (poop and chocolate cake batter look the same) (this caused problems for me)

 

Do I begrudge him the time spent away from us with his new lover toy?  Of course I do.  But the cascading problems with the boat engine were neither anticipated nor Tony’s fault, and they’re unlikely to happen again.  That is, I’m sure there will be other problems that require him to spend a few hours working on the engine in the future, but the hope, nay, the expectation, is that they will be few and far between.  In other words, next summer will be so much better.  I might even get more than a 15-minute ride on the boat myself.  So, I was angry about him being gone so much, for forcing me to shoulder the burden of a family of young boys and a puppy (what the fuck were we thinking?  That dog is basically on cocaine ALL THE TIME) during a busy summer while trying to manage my business and have a little fun and relaxation myself (I didn’t get to that this summer – maybe next year).  However, I have forgiven him because I love him and I know he wished it could have been any other way.

 

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Except he’s probably happy to miss this 2-year-old bullshit.

 

I’d like to think I’m capable of running this circus on my own, but I swear, every time I turn around, someone has taken off his pants, the dog is eating God-knows-what, and more sticks and rocks than I could have imagined have been turned into swords and projectiles.  And bedtime?  Forget it.  I am ready to admit that I am not an empowered, amazing mother who can keep the home ship afloat while dad is keeping a literal ship afloat (I’m not sure which of us got the worse deal: me, touched all over with jam-hands or cleaning up toddler vomit at 2 am, or Tony, covered in diesel and troubleshooting engine trouble for hours on end).  Instead, I am the woman who buys ice cream, takes kids hiking and to the park, makes dinner, fills the wading pool, and then loses her shit when the toddler refuses to sleep and instead cries for 90 minutes straight and the big kids don’t listen to directions THE SAME DIRECTIONS EVERY NIGHT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, BRUSH YOUR GODDAMN TEETH.  Mama needs a consistent bedtime, too, people.  The wine and chocolate aren’t going to consume themselves.

 

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The price of ice cream on a hot day: massive tantrums post-sugar crash.

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Regardless, it’s been a good summer.  Charles went to several weeks of day camp and only had a few meltdowns and days he refused to go (his middle name is Stubborn).  He read probably 200 books this summer – it’s a constant trial to get him to look up and pay attention to ANYTHING besides whatever he’s reading at that moment, though a good movie will often do the trick (the kids enjoyed Spy Kids, The Mighty Ducks, The Three Musketeers, and The Goonies this summer, though their current favorite movie, THE BEST OF ALL TIME, is Shark Boy and Lava Girl).  If he wasn’t reading, he was riding his bike or his roller blades.

 

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The damn dog has to be pinned down to stay still.

Jamie played in the dirt at preschool every single day and I almost never gave him a bath.  Sometimes he jumped into the shower with me and sometimes he stripped down and played in the wading pool with Freddie.  He was clean enough.  My priority was happiness, not cleanliness, and God knows there’s no fun dirt pile in kindergarten.

 

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It’s a fake tattoo.

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Freddie stripped down to nothing every hot afternoon and played in the wading pool.  The dog’s poop bags have been used to pick up Freddie’s poop from the backyard more times than I’d like to admit.  Freddie always throws a fit about having to put clothes back on.  He’s learned to push his diaper down and pee out the top, thus soaking everything in sight, because he thinks it’s funny.  He’s fascinated by his brothers peeing in the yard but doesn’t have the control to do it on demand just yet.  The other day he managed it and was so proud and excited: “Mama!  Pee-pee!  Mama!  Pee-pee!”  He’s cute, he loves to dance, and he doesn’t just say “no” like a regular two-year-old; he says, “Nononono!” while shaking his head.

 

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And now, school.  It’s been a long summer.  I can’t adequately describe how tired and beaten I feel.  When does the coping stop and the living begin?  Maybe now that Jamie is in Kindergarten and Charles is in second grade,  Tony’s home for the weekends and the boat’s out of the water, we can all work on trying to kill each other within the confines of a regular schedule. 

 

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The best part of the end-of-summer?  The school switched from a school-supply list to a flat fee per student so the teachers can buy supplies for their classes.  I’m planning to use the extra brain space that would have been occupied by comparing binder prices and parsing out ten-packs of pink erasers to restock the bar with carefully curated alcohols and mixers.  The dark days of fall are upon us and I plan to mix cocktails frequently.  Say, every time Freddie takes off his clothes.

 

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Dadventures

When the kids go on trips with Tony, it's either an idyllic field trip into a world filled with motorized vehicles and cheeseburgers or a steep descent into a comedy of errors resulting in the use of a t-shirt for a diaper and marshmallows for lunch.  There is no middle ground.

 

A few weeks ago, Tony and Jamie had the first kind of trip. Tony decided on a Saturday evening to go check out a boat the very next day in some faraway Canadian town (note the utter lack of advanced planning, just like every trip he’s taken to look at a fucking boat). I went to bed at mom o'clock (after a cup of tea and falling asleep on the couch while reading) but was awakened near midnight to sign a hastily-written affidavit to the effect that I didn't mind if my husband took our child across the border. When I finally rolled out of bed the next morning at the late hour of 7:30 am, Tony and Jamie were long gone, probably on their second ferry ride of the day (they would do four total). By all accounts, it was a perfect trip. They ate ferry food and saw float planes land on the water and didn't buy a boat (I'm always a bit relieved when that is the outcome). 

 

It wasn’t a trip I’d ever take with a four-year-old, or any of the kids, really.  The day was long, there was lots of time spent in the truck – basically, my idea of a terrible time right there.  But Tony loves that sort of journey.  He eats it up.  Sports radio and looking at boats – that’s like heaven to him, and he’s stoked to share it with the boys.

 

Yesterday, Tony and Charles started out on a trip that, so far, is the second kind of adventure with dad. Before 12 hours had passed, they had missed a flight, stayed up way later than any seven-year-old should, and slept in their rental car in an in identified California city.

 

My husband and my seven-year-old slept in a car.

 

I just... Wow. Life is different on trips with Tony. With me, there are snacks in any bag I happen to have (and I have them all: purse, diaper bag, hiking backpack), plenty of water, changes of clothes, extra diapers, the gps coordinates to all suitable rest stops, children's museums, and restaurants, and kids’ music preloaded in the cd player.  With Tony, it’s fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, don’t-bother-packing-underwear-but-be-sure-we-have-the-life-vests madness. 

 

I suppose this will be an experience Charles will never forget.  The stuff of family legends.  The stuff that keeps my blood pressure nice and high.

 

I haven’t heard from them in a few hours.  Things can’t have gotten much worse, right?  Right??

Monday, April 25, 2016

Searching for Happy

Last week, I honestly wondered if I was having a nervous breakdown.  But then I thought, if I’m aware of the nervous breakdown, is it actually a nervous breakdown?  Or am I just throwing a tantrum?

Jamie is four years old, almost five, and thank you, God, he is starting to show signs of moving out of the Fucking Fours.  I understand the Fucking Fours, though: his emotions outpaced his ability to cope with them.  Well, I think that’s what happened to me during the two weeks that followed spring break; my emotions outpaced my ability to cope.  So maybe Jamie’s not growing out of the Fucking Fours but my ability to empathize is increasing.

Do you know what’s not a good coping mechanism when you’re overtired, overstressed, and overwhelmed?  Texting your overworked, overtired, overstressed husband, “I quit.”  He couldn’t do anything about it.  I probably should have just given in and let everyone eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinnner for a couple of weeks. 

And then, at the culmination of tax season, we said our sobbing goodbyes to Buster.  He was physically healthy but mentally very unhealthy.  He perceived everyone outside of the family as a threat.  He was unsafe.

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I miss him.  God, how I miss that stupid dog.  He wasn’t a very good dog – he never learned to fetch, he stopped being able to run with me a couple of years ago, his belches could clear a room, and he was aggressive – but I loved him.  The house is rather lonely without him, despite the tribe of rambunctious boys.  It hurts when I think of how he used to be many years ago, when I think of the dog he became over time, and when I remember our last moments with him as he slipped away.

Posting might be light here for a few weeks.  I need to find my happy place, the one inside my head, again.  I laughed with Tony a couple of times this past week, I mean really laughed, and it felt new.  I realized that I hadn’t laughed in a long time.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter how funny the joke is; it matters how light your heart. 

I’ll be back when I can be back, friends.