Sunday, November 29, 2009

(Not) Shopping with Coupons

My husband loves to save money. It's his hobby. It hurts him to spend it. So, you can imagine how Black Friday went at my house. It didn't. I bought nothing. Sorry kids, I guess Santa thought you were naughty.

We call my husband Captain Coupon. He has earned this nickname. Because do not go to Target to buy toilet paper without a coupon. He will ask you about it and then he will TESTIFY about the importance of saving money: “Would you leave a dollar on the ground and just walk by? Well, that is exactly what you are doing when you fail to use the coupon to buy toilet paper. All those dollars add up! Lydia, please take this seriously.”

No, sorry, but I really can’t. I just can’t care about coupons. Because they are stupid. They are irregular sizes and they fall out of my checkbook and they are invariably expired when I need them and they make no sense. And they are to blame for countless trips to the parking lot while leaving a full cart of crap in the store because I forgot the damn coupons in the car. And there is always another type of toilet paper on sale that is cheaper than the kind that the coupon is for. Isn’t the whole point to save money? So if I buy the cheaper brand but don’t use the coupon, am I somehow wrong? It shouldn’t be hard. Because I am not bad at money. I am just bad at coupons.

You see, I don't care about money. Really. Other people say that but in my case it is 100% true. This not-caring-about-money thing comes in handy, when say, my husband wants to quit his high-paying, corporate job in favor his dream job. Did I mention that said dream job was just a tad inconvenient, in that it was located in Alabama and paid only half of his fancy salary? But did I get upset? No, not really. I said okey-dokey and we moved to Alabama. And let me tell you people, I am from NEW JERSEY. That’s like Yankee squared.

So why did I do it? Because like I said - I don’t care about money. I care about other stuff. Life-is-too-short-to-be-miserable kind of stuff. Quit your job! Take that vacation! OK, so maybe I have “accidentally” spent $200 at Sam’s Club and not really been able to tell you what I bought. But see, that caused a big fight. So, moving to Alabama because I don’t care about money = good thing. Buying crap we don’t need at Sam’s because I don’t care about money = bad thing.

[Sidebar: We spent four years in Alabama and I loved it. Oh my GAWD - the food. And people really are nicer there. For example, they say ‘how are you’ and actually expect an answer. Though I later learned none of them could understand me because apparently I talk too fast. Two of my three terror suspects were born there. I learned a lot: I make banana pudding. I smock dresses. I fry chicken and green tomatoes. I now somewhat understand college football. I put bows in my daughter's hair that are as big as her whole head and I LOVE IT. Also, you get freaky wildlife in your backyard there like armadillos and alligators and scorpions (oh my!) and one time, my friend’s husband bought a truck for $200 and a shotgun -- entirely nonfiction here! Sigh… good times]

But this post is about money. I want to share some lessons learned on how to spend money without getting crap. So, technically these tips are more about crap-avoidance than saving money. I am not qualified to advise anyone on the latter even though I'm a pro at the former. Here goes:

1. When you buy something cute for yourself, let it live in the trunk of your car for about a month so that when your husband asks you “Is that new?” you will be telling the verbatim truth when you say no. I can not abide lying. Plus, I am bad at lying to the Cap'n.

2. When you get the raised eyebrow because you went to the supermarket for milk and came home with brie, crackers, wine and a new DVD for the kids - remind him that his scotch costs $50 per bottle.

3. A trip to McDonald's is almost always less than $15. It is an investment in my sanity and should not be questioned. Kids will do complex offshore tax calculations for happy meals. That nasty mcnugget lunch with a 20 cent plastic toy from China can also yield dramatic results in room cleaning, tooth brushing, and even bathing.
I hate it, too.  But do not question the power of the happy meal.  Just use it to your own advantage. 

4. The craft store is a good place to spend money because the items purchased there help developing minds do creative, intelligence enhancing things - like not watching Dora and that damned monkey. Plus, they have coupons.

5. If your husband offers to take over the weekly shopping to demonstrate how it can be done better and for less money. Go on and LET HIM. Grocery shopping sucks. Now, he may bring home some pretty bad stuff (the Cap’n once bought the cheapest breakfast sausage at the cheapest discount super market – the kids actually gagged and called it monkey sausage, because it smelled like the Monkey House at the zoo -- that and feet). But if he does it enough, he may learn something about the magical process of how his dinner lands in front of him every night.

6. Manicures, new clothes, and haircuts give the poor Cap’n apoplexy. The last time I mentioned I needed a haircut he said: “What?! AGAIN?” Now, my last haircut was six months ago and cost $16 at the Hair Cuttery next to Walmart. The fact that I am able to type that sentence is… well, sad, but demonstrates clearly that I am not high maintenance. I then catalogue the cost of a high maintenance wife, starting with shoes. [Editor's Note: That would be me, though I still dispute I'm high maintenance, which makes Lydia laugh every single time. The Cap'n would have long since made me walk the plank. - Kate] By the time we get up to hair, my husband has to breathe into a paper bag and I am off to the Walmart shopping center.

The Cap’n really is great at saving money. He took over the weekly Target runs and we now save about $200 per month. And because he loves to save, he also took over groceries. After two savings-filled trips, the Cap'n decided we didn't need monkey sausage after all. Even with the pungent simian sausage vanquished, he still saves about $400 per month. I think we may have discovered the real reason for our nation’s economic downturn. Local merchants are losing money hand over fist. I blame… coupons and, to a lesser extent, the Cap'n.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Daddy is Deployed - The Other Big "D"

In the next couple of weeks, two of my best friends will be single parents. They’re still married. It’s the other big “D” – deployment.  So, in a nod to them and all the badass mommies who take care of everything, we offer up the following suggestions.

Making the Most of Your Best Friend’s Husband’s Deployment:
1) Offer up free babysitting. From your husband. Tell him it’s his chance to serve his country. Then go to your friend’s house (conveniently free of small children) to drink beer and play Wii.  For hours.

2) Encourage the concept of “breakfast for dinner”. Breakfast defined as: children eating cornflakes at the table while mommy watches tivo’ed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy with a glass of wine in the living room. When your own children become jealous that they don’t get to eat cereal for dinner, generously offer to let them (provided they clean up the playroom and go to bed early).

3) Your friend is going to need a ‘happy place’. A place to go when her kids think she is listening to them, while hauling trash and recycling to the curb, or on every Saturday night, when the middle of the bed looks lonely instead of awesome…  Help her find her happy place. Cut out pictures from UsWeekly and stick them under the windshield wipers of her mini-van. Create a playlist of songs she may have roller-skated to in eighth grade. Get creative. Get stupid. She may find her happy place is skating cross-overs with Robert Pattinson during couples only to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

4) Calories. Her husband is getting skinny and buff while he’s deployed. It’s a fact. She will feel the pressure to get even hotter while he’s gone. Like she needs more pressure. It’s your job to remind her of one very important fact. He will not have had relations in six to eighteen months, therefore he will not notice ten pounds. Eat the chocolate. It’s all good.

5) Help her learn to say NO. We know these deployed-spouse mommies are do-ers. They can do anything. It’s your job to turn them into don’t-ers. Don’t clean your own house. I know some one who can scrub your toilets and floors for $75 every other week. Your husband does not need to know. Remind them to be selfish bitches. If the choice is to lead a Girl Scout hike or get her nails done – nails totally win. Should they help out with planning the di—No. Hell no. Get a babysitter and go have drink. Laundry? No no no. “Under the Tuscan Sun” is on cable. Pour another glass.

6) Start a book club to encourage her intellectual stimulation. Ok, so maybe the book club could be more accurately described as a “six women drink four bottles of Pinot while giggling and reading People magazine” club. Make it weekly.

7) When her children start acting out (which they will do) and taking it out on her (which is so not right, but unfortunately inevitable), step in. [Sidebar: at least her kids have an excuse to act like crackheads.] Bring the little sweeties on over to your house. Be cool. Let them eat candy and watch stupid tv. Then bribe them. To act right.  A $30 investment in a DSi game goes a looong way, my friends.

8) Be available for consults.  This can be anything from listening to how much she misses him, to making her giggle as she vents about how much everything sucks, or seeing her through bouts of dealing with The Fear.  By calling them  "consults" instead of "chatting", it confers a degree of importance.  It will make you both feel like you are not wasting copious amounts of time on the phone every day.  And it is important.

9) Get ready for the The Crisis. At some point during his deployment everything will go pear-shaped.  Maybe it's a trip to the ER.  Maybe its the IRS deciding that now is a peachy time for an audit.  It may be big or small, but it's coming.  Do what you gotta do, friend.  Babysit the kids, find a lawyer, call in the big guns if needed.  And always make sure that there is plenty of chinese take-out and wine.
10) When our hero's prospective return from deployment is a couple of weeks away, start reminding her that reacclimation can be hard.  It will be awesome.  At first.  But the reunited-and-it-feels-so-good buzz only lasts a couple of days.  And then he takes up residency on the couch, asserting how he needs to rest (true, but still...).  And he starts having opinions on things like what you buy at the grocery store and how late the kids stay up.  So, as much as she has earned a break, it is not coming.  She is a Mommy.  And there are no breaks in Mommyland.  Sigh...  But at least she'll be off trash duty.

We understand that our recommendations are somewhat diabolical in nature, unashamedly mommy-centric and slightly obnoxious.  But we want to help.  And we know who makes the world go round, who really makes all these deployments possible and who is really in charge.  Like the t-shirt says, "Your rank has nothing to do with my authority."  Rock on, military mommies. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Top Ten List: You Know You're Done Having Kids When...

We want to say "Thank You!" to those Mommyland Fans out there who submitted ideas for our Top Ten. You made us laugh, and Kate even snorted at one of them. Funny, and yet disturbing at the same time. We won't tell you which one...

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, be thankful (as for us, we're not pregnant, and we can drink this Thanksgiving - Amen and pass the vino!) and come back Friday, especially you Military Moms. You do all the Mom stuff and have to persevere while Hubby is gone. We think you gals are awesome. Lydia penned a little funny one especially for you.

The Top Ten Reasons You Know You're Done Having Kids
10. It takes you at least three tries to get the names of your existing children right, to the point of employing the dog's name first. "Uh - you there, um... Suzy? Jennifer! Snoopy! Sorry - Katie. Feet off the couch!"
9. You will literally have to drive your family around in a short school bus. Upside: Comes with helmets.
8. When the topic comes up, your Catholic in-laws look alarmed and advise you to "pray about it". Then suggest becoming Protestant.
7. You accidently left one at the gas station and didn't realize it for an hour.
6. Everytime you hear the words "accident" or "surprise", no matter what the context, you involuntarily cross your legs.
5. The last time your period was late you were thrilled when it turned out to be early menopause.
4. You have already been approached by TLC to have a reality show. Tentatively called "Little Terror Suspects" Wait -- Crap.
3. Your pelvic floor is so delicate that sneezing, laughing too hard, and coughing fits result in flooding issues.
2. You are so deep in The Blur that you have already forgotten reason #5.
1. You are delighted to learn that you are so done, 'cause the hubby done and got it done. Go hubby! Go Hubby!

Thanks a million for those of you who sent in suggestions and Happy Thanksgiving! xo, Kate & Lydia


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Surrender Kate

I gave up this morning. It was a full-blown surrender. OK, not FULL BLOWN - I did put on a bra. Ladies, this is not optional. It's a school day, for the love of Pete, and we don't live on South Beach. And, jeez, my entire morning - and most likely yours - was spent telling people to get dressed. "You need to get dressed." "Go put on clothes please." "Ugh, appropriate clothes." "Maybe a shirt?" "Have you got your socks on?" "Hey! Get dressed!" "No, you may not go commando, this is not a fraternity."

This would be a great time to follow your own sage advice. That, or just stay in the car at drop off. I need coffee before I can absorb you taking the girls out for a morning stroll, even if it is under a sweatshirt. Plus, you don't want morning snark from me, and on this particular morning, I just can't be trusted to keep my mouth shut.

Anyhow, I can usually rely on my vanity to at least get myself somewhat put together before venturing out into the world. For me, there are three facets: hair, makeup, outfit. As far as I'm concerned, you can blow off two of them, as long as the third is done. Goofy outfit, hair in a ponytail? OK then, throw on some mascara and lip gloss. You get my drift..if nothing else, it conveys that you tried.

Me? This morning. No trying. None. Besides the bra and brushing my teeth, I was basically just waiting for the flying monkey army to come take me away. Me and my little dog too....

Let's start from the bottom, shall we?

Sneakers: I love my sneakers. I'm a runner, and they are fabulous. However. Unless I am on my way out to run, or coming home from a run, I don't wear sneakers. Ever. They are my Ferrari of shoes. And me wandering around in my RUNNING shoes is akin to taking out said Ferrari and keeping it in first gear. You know when you buy your kids new sneakers and they tear all over the store, testing them out, and seeing how much faster they are? Yeah, that's me. I'm either running in them, or they're on the floor.

Socks: Discovered shoved inside aforementioned sneakers, where they'd taken up residency since the last run. Fairly certain they have grown the culture for curing cancer. That, or they're causing it. Either way, their proximity to shoes makes them viable option. I'm gross.

Scrubs: Amazing how one can hear a collective groan over the Internet. Now, don't get me wrong. Scrubs are awesome. But they, by law, should only be worn by medical professionals in a medical setting. I'm even OK with them outside a medical facility, say the grocery store, when it's clearly obvious that 1) the person wearing them is still a medical professional; 2) they are either coming from, or going to, said medical facility; and 3) they exude that aura of lifesaving abilities. You get that "oooh, he's like McDreamy" thought.

I, however, was batting zero, and pretty sure every single person I saw was thinking "ewww, she's like McEscapee from the McInstitution."

In their defense, they're comfortable, reversible, the handy drawstring. But flattering? Oh hell no. I knew better than to look in the mirror, where the view from behind makes it look like my ass is slowly melting into the back of my knees.

But, I have a strange affinity for these pants. I got them the day after my daughter was born, when Season One came to the hospital.
[Sidebar: -- oh, I have to explain: I'm on Marriage #2. For those of you who were fans of "Bewitched," you'll remember that Season One had the first Darrin. Then they switched Darrins. Goodbye, Dick York. Hello, Dick Sargent. No explanation. So, that's my life. Season One wasn't working out, so we had to cancel him. McLovin is the new Darrin. We live eight houses down the street from Season One, in the EXACT same style house, where the pictures are hung in the EXACT same places, and the kitchen drawers are arranged the EXACT same way. Seriously, I just changed Darrins. And yes. It is EXACTLY as weird as it sounds.]

OK, back to the hospital. Season One shows up with clothes for me to wear home, post-baby. They're my pre-baby clothes. Like PRE pre-baby. I pull on my shorts, to find the button resting on one hip bone, and the corresponding buttonhole on the other hip. I feel like I'm watching an invisible tennis match across my abdomen, looking back and forth at the grand expanse of skin between the fabric. Season One would have laughed had it not been for the fact that he knew he would be in a full-body cast if he did. Yeah, fit clothes over all that plaster, Funny Man.

One kind nurse + one pair of scrubs = new mom not going home half naked.

Top: White t-shirt bought on Gap clearance rack that said "Irregular." Two bucks! SWEET! I figured, what could be so bad? Especially at that price. Ummm, this shirt is all kinds of whack. It's a 3/4 sleeve on one side, 2/3 on the other. Basically one below the elbow, the other above it. So you spend all day shoving one up and tugging down on the other. And, whatever bias-cut means, let's call it what it is: Boobs Akimbo Syndrome. I swear it looks like my left one is in my armpit, while the right has decided to go pay a visit to my bellybutton for the day. NO BRA fixes this. And yet, I keep this shirt. Why? No %*)$#*% idea. I swear up and down I'm trashing the thing, and then it comes out of the laundry and I think of one other outfit that might salvage its whacktacularness. Or, you save it for Surrender Day. I put on the most industrial, wire-laden, full coverage, encased in elastic bra I have, throw on my $2 Rip-off shirt, and watch as the girls bid each other farewell for the day and depart for their respective locations. Stupid shirt.

I have on no make-up, save for what remained from last night when I didn't wash my face. Yes, I'm grossed out too. I'm wearing a baseball cap and my hair is assembled - not brushed, mind you - assembled into a ponytail.

In a phrase, I am a hot mess.

Which is reinforced by every person I see.

Daughter, McGee: "Hi. Mom? Are you sick?"
Older Son, Lefty: "Are you going on a run? Coming back from a run?" [pause] "Can you just drop me off at Kiss-n-Ride today?"
Younger Son, Happy: [worried look on face when I walk in his room] "Where's Daddy?"
Crossing Guard: [sucks in lips to keep from laughing] calls to other Guard, and then, I must assume, does the raised eyebrow look in my direction.
Other Crossing Guard: "Well, helllloooooo" Me: "Shut up." They burst into laughter. Nice.
Teacher at Preschool: [to my son] "Good morning, Happy. Where's Mommy today? Oh. Ohhhh."
Other Teacher at Preschool: [very long pause] "Wow."
Lydia: " know it's a bad day when I look cuter than you do."

I get home, and as I'm heading through the kitchen toward my room, I see a note my daughter has left for me on our kitchen board: "Hi Mom. Have a good day. Not to bother, but can you look normal when you pick us up after school? Or, we can walk home too, its OK. Love, McGee. PS You can use my shampoo if you're all out."

No need to send the flying monkey army. Apparently they already live in my house.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Don't Even Ask.

You are chatting with another mom. She is in a suit. You are in jeans. You sense the question is coming before she even says it. You've heard it before. The only difference is the phrasing:
  • So, what do you DO?
  • Do you work? I mean, outside the home?
  • Wow, you’re a full-time mom?
  • Do you have a job?
  • Your kids are all in school now though, right?
Lydia and I long ago gave up trying to answer that question. On my most snarky days, I say, “No, I don’t have a job. I actually do nothing. I’m sooooo bored.” Lydia plays along and usually comes up with some crap about her extensive volunteer work, serving on a "Board" or something. [Editorial comment: I try to look smug and casual as I'm saying it. But, usually a little hysteria peeks through. Rather than seem breezy and impressive I come off as demented and self-important. It's pretty awesome. - Lydia]

Its hard not to feel the judgment oozing from the asker. These are the same people who asked you such beauties as:

  • Did you plan your pregnancy?
  • Are you going to breastfeed for the full two years?
  • How much weight did you gain when you got pregnant?
  • Wasn't your due date last month?
  • Does your child go really go to that daycare?
  • You let your kids watch TV?
These are questions with an agenda. I'm not talking about played-out "Mommy Wars" philosophical stuff. Or about good-natured curiosity or getting to know someone. I am talking about people who don't mind their manners or their business.

A woman I only sort of know wins the prize for this kind of question. [Editorial comment: I know her. That woman is a damn heifer. - Lydia]. I guess she didn't like my outfit. I was dressed for my (part-time) job and dropping off the kids at school when she saw me and said, “Oh My God. What do you do for a living?”

Granted, most moms don’t show up in black leather jeans and channeling Johnny Cash. But seriously?! Pardon my delicate sensibilities, but on the day you show up wearing Land’s End matching sweats with your toothbrush STILL IN YOUR MOUTH is the day you forfeit playing critic with Clinton and Stacy. [Editorial comment: I like Land's End sweats. - Lydia.] Can we at least agree on a minimum threshold of attire before casting stones at another's wardrobe? I know I can go WAY over the top, but please, on behalf of every other mother who HAS to see you at drop off, put. on. a. bra.

My response to her charming question: “I’m a hooker." We’ve never spoken again. It’s been nice. And those jeans still fit. Bonus. [Editorial comment: Kate is not a hooker, but she is ridiculously gorgeous.- Lydia].

The above heifer/hooker exchange was irritating on many levels:

  • Level 1: Unprovoked rudeness.
  • Level 2: I am no more defined by the fact that I can rock some leather jeans than I am by the fact that I am currently professionally under-employed.
  • Level 3: If I were just a single gal, that heifer might have thought that question but she certainly wouldn't have said it out loud. Why?
  • Level 4: If I promise not to hate on you because you're a cow, can you please show me the same courtesy? [Editorial comment: On behalf of all the heifers out there, yes. - Lydia]
There is no right answer to these stupid questions. So stop asking. I love the time I have with my kids right now. But it's a recession, people, and my line of work is cut-throat. If the right full-time gig came along, I would take it. In a heartbeat. Lydia, conversely, is practically being stalked by her former employer in the hopes that she will come back to work. To this, she says "hell nah" (trying, and failing to imitate Whitney Houston) and goes back to folding laundry. Though she rants constantly - she chooses to be right where she is. [Editorial comment: Yes, in a filthy house with three ungrateful children and a geriatric cat. Jealous much? - Lydia]

At some point we've all gotten the urge to ask another mommy something, knowing the answer will result in you feeling just a little bit better about yourself. Is it really worth it? Aren't the indignities we suffer as butt-wipers and dish-washers enough? Do we really need to make it harder on each other? [Editorial comment: I once had a female DOCTOR I worked with make fun of me because I was still breastfeeding my nine-month-old. To the point where I almost cried. In a meeting. Stupid doctor. That wasn't cream in your coffee, hotshot. - Lydia] So when you get the itch and you want to ask if they "still work" or if that juice box is organic, just like yours, think about me and Lydia. Keep all the acerbic, witty things you want to say in your head. Then send the snark to us.


Friday, November 20, 2009

We Love McLovin'

As I talked about last week, my husband and children left me to play Single Girl for a few days. Last Wednesday night they called to check in, say hello, and, I think, for my husband to prove that he could be in charge without the end result being some scene out of "The Lord of the Flies."

[Sidebar: When he called at 8pm, and I answered the phone, his first words: "Oh, I am sooooo disappointed in you. Big-night-on-the-town, huh? You're totally in pajamas." I denied it. I lied.]

So what did I learn during my mini Mom Sabbatical? Dads may not know the pediatrician, shoe size or what day is Library Day at school, but trust me, moms, he's leaving his mark. Because there's no way they're getting this stuff from us.
  • Spitting into cuts, scrapes and scratches is just as effective as an antiseptic spray. Dirt works too...
  • When pressed for time, tooth brushing is totally optional. Just remember not to speak. I've taken to hiding the toothpaste on Sunday mornings, just so they'll all be quiet until church is over.
  • When someone farts, the appropriate response is "Is there a bear in here?" As it turns out, the offending party is always the one who laughs first.
  • Always save one article of clothing for the laundry until right after Mom finishes the last load...seeing three completely empty laundry bins makes her sad.
  • Cursing is never allowed, with the exception of the word "sucks" after the name of your sports team's biggest our house, the Mets Suck.
  • Dares + Nudity = Successful Completion of Chores -- McLovin dares the kids to empty every trash bin to the big outside can wearing only underwear and one part of the Batman costume -- cape, belt, chest plate, boots or mask. Note to self: Buy more capes.
  • It's never too early to teach them how to get a beer from the downstairs fridge, pop it open, and deliver it to a thirsty adult. One downside: My boys eyeing the beer case at Safeway saying, "Mom, should we get Heineken or Sierra Nev -- WHOA! Sweet! They have the Sam Adams Winter Brew!" And then we get it. And then people stare.
  • Everyone can burp their own name. Everyone except for me...because I'm lame. Or so I've been told. They burp it to me.
  • Adjusting oneself in public is allowed, as long as you justify it. "Sorry mom, Lefty was trying to cross over to the Dark Side." (this has been actually uttered, in Nordstrom, in the shoe department...of which they still remember...and remind me. "Oh you're the one with the boy who's worried about Darth Lefty?" Yes. Yes, that would be me.)
And even on the days when I think he can't become more of an idiot, and sends me the status of the refrigerator while I'm at work (see "no milk") he finds a way to become even more enchanting to the children (fake taking a baseball to the groin is their personal favorite). I showed up after my Mom Sabbatical to three happy kids who were dressed, bathed and dancing to Elvis - with their shirts open to their navels. Singing along to "Hound Dog." By burping.

And to McLovin, YOU are The King. Thankya...thankya vurrrrry much....


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Exploring "I Am Done" with Kate and Lydia

Kate and I have lately been exploring the concept of: "I am done." Here's why. The other night, my husband and I were discussing the holidays. He told me that he would like a new baby for Christmas. "Where do you plan on getting one at such short notice?" I joked. Silence. Long silence. Oh dear. He actually wants another one. I stared at him. He stared back. "We can stop at four," he said, totally serious.

So I call Kate and she said the same thing had happened to her. She shares the following story: "When McLovin had the notion for one more, he came bearing a very full, and full-bodied, glass of Merlot, which tends to guarantee his victory. However, he failed to plan (by bringing along the whole bottle) for my reaction (downing said glass of wine in 3 seconds) to his kind proposal. I'm left contemplating months 57-76 of gestating and breast-feeding. With an empty glass.

K: Can you conceive?
McL: Ummm, no.
K: If I conceive, can you gestate?
McL: Pretty sure not.
K: Do you have some other wife that I don't know about?
McL: No, mostly because I like my body parts where they are.
K: Looks like you're out of luck my friend.
McL: Hmmm, maybe. How about some more wine?
Me: Well, yeah. But don't think I'm changing my mind. I like my body parts where they are too."

I consider Kate's wisdom carefully. It appears my husband and I are at an impasse. He wants one more baby, I'm all set with the three we've got. I am not 100% certain that I will never want another baby. I've thought about it a lot. Babies, in theory, are lovely. But my youngest just started walking. My older kids need constant attention if there is any hope of avoiding juvenile delinquency.

Then there's being pregnant. Pregnancy for me was like 40 weeks of the worst hangover ever. It was all puking and exhausted grouchiness and random strangers invading my personal space and talking about my lady parts. Kate, however, loved being pregnant. She says she just doesn't need the person at the end of it. For her, the first three weeks with said bundle of joy was the hangover. I can really see her point. Am I done?

Its usually pretty straight forward when someone is done. Before the question is even out, they are clear about their done-ness. The conversation goes like this:

Lydia: "Are you planning on ha--"
Friend who is done: "NO. Hell no."
Lydia: "Umm... Ok then."
Friend who is done: "We will not discuss this again. I. Am. Done."

So help us out, friends. Let's make up a Top Ten List. The Top Ten Reasons You Know You're Done Having Kids. Here's some examples that Kate and I have come up with. You know you're done having kids when:
  1. You will automatically become a Mormon if you have one more.
  2. Realizing there is no such thing as "bunk-cribs", you will be forced to design and execute the building of one from sticks in the back yard and other found objects.
  3. When you ask your doctor about birth control, and he suggests pills, IUDs or the Patch, you say, "No, I was thinking more along the lines of actual steel doors...maybe a moat...a dragon could be cool too."
  4. You start making absurd deals with your husband. "Dear, remember when you said how much you'd just LOVE to have a pool table in my dining room. Yeah, I think it's a great idea. Screw Thanksgiving dinner; we can totally eat on TV trays. Yes, just like the pilgrims did. I think we just need to move the China cabinet, getyouavasectomy, and move the table into the kitchen. Done and done."
Leave your suggestions for the Top Ten reasons in the comment box below or join us on Facebook ( and leave them there. We know that you are hilarious and brilliant, so come on! We'll post the funniest ones next Tuesday. Please! Kate thinks I need all the help I can get. She's right. Help us come up with the Top Ten, Top Sixty, or Top 365, just so I can have a reason every day for a year. Thanks in advance, mommies. You rule.


Special Guest Writer: Mommy Sick Days

Cold and Flu season is upon us again. That glorious time of year when Mommy gets to clean up piles of snot-filled tissues, refill the cold air humidifier, and buy orange juice by the vat. Adding to the fun this year are the news networks, bombarding us with the imminent danger of H1N1. Vaccinate or die. Except that we have no vaccines for anyone who isn't a prisoner or employed by the CDC.

My 15-year-old son stumbled into the house yesterday after school and after dropping his bag in the middle of the kitchen floor (a whole other topic for discussion), mumbled something about "sore throat" went straight to his bedroom, crawled into bed, and aside from getting up to pee and drink a gallon of Gatorade, has not emerged since. It's been 17 hours. I would go in and check on him, but quite frankly I've got PTSD from two weeks ago when I found the Victoria's Secret catalogue in there.  I don't care if there WAS a card in there for 25% off your purchase. The only way I'm approaching that thing is with some industrial gloves and a 10-foot grappling hook.

And, after 3 kids and years of being married to their father, I've leaned that this is just standard non-Mommy sick behavior. When the rest of the world is sick, they go their bedroom and sleep until the virus has run its course.

When Mommy gets's just another day.

Kate's husband goes into Superman Shuffle Mode. That is to say, he wraps a dark blanket around himself, shuffles around, and spends long stretches of time on Krypton or something, emerging just long enough remind everyone that, yes, he's still sick and where's the sympathy dammit?  Lydia's husband often gets what is commonly known as a "Man Cold". For more information on Man Colds, click here ( You will not be sorry.  Mine eats Tylenol Cold and Flu like Skittles and then lies on the couch and whimpers like a Cocker-Spaniel. Obviously, they call in sick and discard the blackberry. It's 24 to 48 hours of coma aided and abetted by the nice folks at Proctor and Gamble.

Lest you think that I'm just picking on the husbands, the children are even worse when ill. With them comes not only the whining and the phlegm, but that heart-in-the-throat moment when you pull that thermometer out of your three-year-old's mouth and it reads "103.6". They may be the Little Terror Suspects, but we all know that we love 'em more than our own lives, and to see them that sick will scare the hell out of you.

But let's say they're aren't that's just your-run-of -the-mill headcold. Their world still shuts down. No going to school. No homework. No clearing the plate off the table. No walking the dog. No taking out the trash. My 15-year-old is supposed to take out the garbage in our house, but the longer he quarantines himself in his room, the more my kitchen is starting to smell like Newark.

Fellow Moms, when we get sick, do we look at our husbands plaintively and whisper hoarsely, "Where's the juice?" Do we push the magic mute button on our children to quell the raging sinus headache? In short, does Mommy get a sick day?

Of course not.

Mommy may look like an extra from "Outbreak," but any thoughts of crawling back into bed are invariably interrupted by "Where's my red tie?" and "Did you pack my lunch"? After a sleepless night of coughing up stuff that resembles toxic waste, we watch as our husbands glibly wave goodbye, then feed the children breakfast, drive them to school, run to the grocery store to pick up more strained green beans for the baby, wash 4 loads of laundry, unload the dishwasher, go over homework, drive the daughter to ballet, and make dinner for everyone.

In short, we do what we always do. And we do it because we know what will happen if we do run into our bedroom and shut the door. For those who don't know, remember Hurricane Katrina? Now picture that in your kitchen and living room. Any hour taken hiding under the covers equals 4 extra hours of housework. And you don't get FEMA's help.

When I was eight, my mother became critically ill with pneumonia. She was, in fact, so ill, she was in the hospital for 2 days, and in bed immobile for nearly two weeks. My father was a wonderful man -- he could build a house from scratch and fashion a contraption that used the gravitational pull of the sun to make the toilet flush or something -- but had not a clue WHERE the dishwasher and washing machine were, much less how they worked.

Our house was in complete chaos. My sister washed our underwear in the sink using a bar of Ivory. We ate peanut butter and jelly for every meal until we ran out of bread. Then we subsisted on a can of Planter's nuts and Tang. It's a good thing Mom got better when she did, or I'm fairly certain that we would have ended up like those rugby players in the Andes.

The U.S. House recently passed the Health Care Bill, and now it's in the Senate. I'm thinking about calling my Senator and asking him to submit an amendment that would make it a federal crime to make moms work when they are ill. But then again...I'm not sure we have the National Guard troops to spare.

XOXOs from Lydia and Kate to Beth M. for her brilliance.

Monday, November 16, 2009

About Boys

I grew up in a family of girls. If some scientist came in and did an anthropological study, he would deduce that there were exactly the minimal number of the male species mingled in with the dozens of females to ensure no crossing of family lines. Truly, they were only there to provide the requisite chromosomal contribution....and lift heavy things. And, frankly, you can get a forklift for the heavy things.

So, one could imagine my puzzled expression when I came face to face with my first son. We never wanted to know the babies' genders before they were born. Mostly because I'm morbidly superstitious. But also, because WE. MAKE. GIRLS. Duh.

And because God enjoys a good joke as much as anyone, he thought, "One was funny. Two will be a riot." Well done, God. My daughter protested loudly that I owed her a sister after those two awful boys. I'm pretty sure we had a very deep and meaningful conversation about Playing Chicken with God. The lesson being, "Don't play chicken with God."

Six years have passed since I saw that first boy face; three since the second one decided to up the ante. But oh the things I have learned:
  • "It doesn't match" translates to "zhzhhzhzhhzhzhhzhzhzh" Shirts match pants, period. It doesn't matter the color, style, design, season or fabric. If you have something on top, and something on bottom, you match.

  • Everything can become a gun -- sticks, sunglasses, a spatula, a headless Barbie, enough Legos. My high heels were deemed a good alternative -- until one day when I looked out the kitchen window and saw Jimmy Choo battling Manolo Blahnik for the prized land of MyFrontYard. Quickly assembling my armies, Prada and Gucci, I waged a full-scale attack, defeating the opposing commanding generals. We're currently negotiating the terms of their surrender. Safe to say the land of MomsCloset has been forfeited.

  • A boy's natural reaction, when you leap out from behind the kitchen door and yell "RAA!" is to hit the ground. Flat down. And then get mad because you made him pee.

  • Apparently, it is possible to determine the winner of Penis Lightsaber (a caveat, it is advised to play this game in the shower, preferably BEFORE you soap them down) He who runs out of "light" first, loses.

  • The best parts of my first grader's school day are invariably when someone farted, tried to fart, or taught everyone else how to make farting sounds with their armpits. Which gets demonstrated. Topless. At dinner. At which point the younger one joins in. And McLovin.

  • Similarities exist between boy and canine when, promptly after being bathed, both run around the house in no discernible direction. And naked. [Editor's Note: The dog considers his collar to be clothing. And, no, they weren't bathed together. That would be gross.]

  • Of every song he's ever heard, these are the lyrics he's decided to memorize, complete with hand gestures. "Oh I got this rocket; In my friendly pocket; Ready to explode like a bomb." I swear, he's never seen a music video. How does he know these moves? Thank you, Jesus Jackson. Your name gives him absolution. Awesome.

  • Every instance of nudity in our house is accompanied by "naked, naked, naked" -- sung in the way one sings "nanny nanny boo-boo" -- complete with hip shake.

  • My boys will wear the same socks and underwear eleventeen days in a row, but heaven forbid if one of the other kids pretends to wipe a non-existent booger on their shirt. That thing is COMING OFF.

  • They can hit a ten footer without using the rim when they're playing basketball, and yet the laundry hamper....odd.

  • Claim is made on food by spitting on it. "My brownie!" [hock, thwap] Successfully thwarted after I spit on same brownie and said "ewww, now you don't want it either"

  • Rather than an alarm, I'm typically woken up to the sounds of one of my boys announcing that it is, in fact, morning. How do they know? They're BOYS, and it's MORNING, and they're, ummm, fascinated with their own anatomy.

But, at the end of the day, when hair smells of shampoo and they ask you once again what they had for dinner, and when you remind them, they say "oh yeah, that was goooood," you snuggle down with them in their freshly laundered sheets, listen to them recite their own version of the Lord's Prayer ("...who art in heaven, Halloween is my name, til kingdom come...") and think to yourself that there can't be anything better than this. And then someone farts...


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mommy Did A Bad Thing

I ran over my stroller today. Don't worry - it was empty. I parked it behind the mini-van (aka The Big White Tampon), put the kids safely inside, put myself inside, waved goodbye to my friend, and then backed right over the stroller. Is this horrifying? Hmmm... Sort of. No small people were in any actual danger. It was just a very obvious (not to mention expensive) manifestation of what a bubble-head I have become.

Here's the really embarrassing part -- aside from the fact that my mistakes are potentially life-threatening: this is the second stroller I have killed in exactly the same fashion in less than six months. No. I'm not kidding. Here is another really embarrassing part: I don't have to throw the stroller out because I can rebuild it from the spare parts of the other strollers I have destroyed over time. I have a stroller grave-yard on the side of the my garage where I keep the garbage cans and recycling bins. My garage has started to look like Wall*E's trailer. There may not be a wheel-less car and old refrigerator there, but you get the idea. Am I white trash? Maybe ivory. Or possibly cream.

But there's something else. There's clearly something wrong with me. I swear, there are two types of people in the world; those that are somewhat normal and well-adjusted and those that are like me - the devastatingly stupid Morons. (We deserve capitalization.) I spend at least half an hour every night before sleep claims me (or doesn't) making a mental inventory of every cringe-worthy thing I did and said throughout the day. It is often an absurdly long list.

The items range from minor to heinous. Here's a sample:
  • Let the children listen to inappropriate music in the car. Now my four year old keeps saying "Give that big booty a smack". It was hilarious. For about five seconds.
  • Made a joke about excessive drinking to my Pastor and instead of laughing and thinking I was funny, she looked disturbed and constipated.
  • While paying more attention to Facebook than my maternal duties, I think the baby ate dog food.
  • Saw a picture in a magazine of the teenage werewolf from Twilight and choked on my own saliva when I learned that he was 19 years younger than me. Am disgusting, awful, calcified old woman. Need to stop reading UsWeekly and start reading Wall Street Journal.
  • Bought iTunes card as gift for my sister and then spent it myself downloading songs I used to have on cassette. Selfish. Selfish. Selfish.
  • While doing laundry, I found a masticated turd in the washing machine and said: "What is this? Is this... Is it?? Oh for PETE's sake! Are you F*CKING kidding me?!" which was overheard and repeated by my son in rotation with giving his big booty a smack.
  • Referred to myself as a "turtle herder" on the phone and referenced that it often takes my kids 35 minutes to put their shoes on. My daughter started crying because I was mean. Because I called her a turtle.
  • In an effort to make sure the children eat their five servings of fruit and/or veggies per day, I let them eat all the grapes they wanted and now they have diarrhea in the manner of a repeating lawn sprinkler.
  • The last thing my kids heard before falling asleep tonight was me threatening to spank them if I heard one more peep from either of them. Just because it took them a total of two hours and forty minutes from the time they were put in the bed until they finally fell asleep... I should not threaten to beat them. That was wrong.
  • I accidentally finished a whole bottle of wine. It was only two glasses and then a tiny, little third glass and it was gone. I think someone shrunk the bottle.
As I lie in bed every night, running through the day's events in my head, I wonder - is it just me? I try hard every day only to fall short. Am I special? Should I find a support group? Is my poor husband actually doing community service by staying married to me? Why has God chosen to place such wonderful children in my care, when I am so clearly an imbecile? And then I realize that I may in fact be the luckiest person in the world because in spite of who I am (an imbecile) and what I do (be imbecilic), my family and friends love me anyway. It is a miracle. The sort that is celebrated in the streets of France on odd weeks in February. And with that happy thought -- and three glasses of wine -- I fall asleep.


Herding Turtles

If I am late one more time because of Lego Star Wars, there is going to be an Unfortunate Incident. I hate being late. I hate rushing. Yet, all I do is rush around, five minutes behind schedule in a big, white, 7-seater Ford Tampon. And it's about to get worse. Because of the cold. Because it takes the little terror suspects that much longer to get out the door when you add in variables like hats and gloves...I will never be on time again. As it is, I haven't been on time since early 2003.

I have mentioned this phenomenon before. I harp on it. I am a harpy. Because I can't take it anymore. What happens to short people when they need to leave the house? They are zippiest little buggers on earth when its time for quiet reading but ask them to get ready for school and time stops. This morning, for example, The Slowness hit at breakfast. It should not take 25 minutes to eat four tablespoons of oatmeal. It should not take 17 minutes to put on a pair of Crocs.

I am currently an imbecile. You know this. I have dedicated several posts to the subject. So it should come as no surprise to you that I. Don't. Get. It. I would be more understanding if there were some logic behind their behavior. There is not. So I tend to lose my, ahem, shizzle. I don't like using my dragon voice but sometimes I have no choice. I am being driven crazy. Do you have any idea the amount of un-Christian behavior it takes to get my family to church on time? Neither do I. Because we have never once been to church on time.

Now, if they hated going to school I would understand that it might be difficult to muster the enthusiasm required to find your backpack [hint: it is blocking the front door, along with your sneakers and hoodie, right where you left them when you came home yesterday]. But it doesn't seem to matter. Example: We can't wait for Suzy's 5th birthday party. All week long: Is it today? Is it tomorrow? How many sleeps 'til Suzy's stupid, rancid, pathogen-filled Chuck E. Cheese nightmare of a birthday party? Yet when the day comes, in spite of the fact that we have been dressed for the party since 7:30am, we arrive 18 minutes late. Here's the play-by-play:

Large female: "We have to leave in 5 minutes. Let's get ready to go!"
Small female: "Yay! Finally... Where's my shoe? [pause, whining] I want my pink fleece not my pink vest! And you said you'd braid my hair and you didn't and that's breaking a promise to me."
Large female: "You asked me to braid your hair on Thursday. This is Saturday. No time now, sorry. [points to bathroom, hears squeal of anger] You most certainly are going to the potty now because I am not setting foot in that public restroom. Go. Now. [Stomping. Then 5 minutes goes by. No sound of flushing has been heard.] Are you done? What do you mean NO? Why not? What are you doing in there?
Small female: "I'm braiding my hair."
Large female: "Dear God. Daddy! Get in here."
Large male: "What the ?! Is that a dreadlock?"
Small male: "HA HA HA! You look stupid!"
18 minutes later we are in the car. Hair is fixed, but my daughter's face is pink and streaky from having her handiwork dismantled with power tools and hot oil. And she never actually used the bathroom. Dang! Now we need a juice box and some Kleenex for the ride there. Fine, I'll go back in the house. Aw, come on! I forgot my go-cup of coffee on the counter. Back in the house.
Total elapsed time from the first statement of impending departure until now: 31 minutes.

You've heard the expression "herding cats", right? Its not like that. Its much worse.
"Herding cats" implies a sometimes frustrating and often futile exercise. This is more like herding turtles. I am a turtle herder. If you prod a cat, it runs. If you prod a turtle, grab a magazine and make yourself comfortable, you are going nowhere. Turtle herding ("turding?") is always futile and frustrating. And sometimes, on a bad day, it even involves real turds.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who I Was Before You

Moms, somewhere in the files of your computer, or tucked away in a manila folder at the bottom of your desk is that dusty piece of paper. With your name in BOLD at the top, with your Magna Cum Laude or Director of Communications or Tax Litigator or MBA…or, maybe it just says you were more than just a woman who walks into a bathroom to the sight of your son, naked from the waist down, bent over like he’s the starting center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, impatiently shrieking for you to “WIPE MY HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINEEEEEEEEEEEEY!”

We all have seen the articles outlining what a stay-at-home mom could make. Between the food shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, childcare, homework, chauffeuring, and – let’s just say “other” – a mom is worth about $122,732. Seems reasonable to me; if not a little on the cheap side. Do I get an expense account? Who pays for gas? Can I bill for extra hours, say between 11pm and 5am? Vacation time? And, no I don’t mean the family takes a vacation to Disneyland or some other place that has nothing to do with me. THAT is not a vacation; THAT is work in a different location.

No, a VA-KAY-SHUN Meaning: to vacate. Leave. Vamoose. Me. Possibly my husband. With some friends. Fruity drinks, and people to serve them.

Or, just throw in a monthly case of Four Buck Chuck and I think we got a deal.

Among our circle of friends, Lydia and I share our time with a federal prosecutor, a health care professional, a teacher, a genetic biologist, a history professor, a television producer, a corporate executive and a “senior government official.” We even have a friend who majored in Mandarin Chinese. The language, the alphabet, the cuss words. All of it. She scolds her kids in Chinese. It’s fantastic. Even my children behave when she gets going. When her kids are bad, she says she’s going to sell them to China. It’s a legitimate threat. I’m pretty sure she could do it.

In her former life, she was a translator for visiting Chinese, which I think is so cool and something I could never do. First of all, besides the seven words I’ve managed to absorb from Ni Hao Kai Lan, I don’t know Chinese. Second, I don’t think I would behave myself. Some American Dignitary would say, “It is our greatest pleasure to have you visit us, and we are honored to discuss mutually beneficial trade between our two great countries.” And then I’d look over at the Chinese Dignitary and say, “We have set up a sumo wrestling mat behind the White House. My country is challenging your country to your great sports venture. May the victor dictate the terms of our trade agreement.”

And then they’ll shake hands, and one Chinese guy would say to the other, “Do they think we’re Japanese?”

We find ourselves wistfully saying, “…I once had this case/client/story/patient…” and re-tell stories…mostly I think, to remind ourselves that we – our lovely children notwithstanding – were once relevant to a world greater than what we could fit into our sedan-cum-minivans.

So, moms of the world, take heart. Your skills are more transferable than you think. You’ll find yourselves brushing up on case law, communicable diseases, standardized tests, DNA, hidden cameras, and, when your children push you to the edge, that Mandarin is going to come in REAL handy.

Doctors, Nurses, EMT's and Health Professionals: Not only can you fix what hurts, you save all of your friends the trips to the doctor for a crazy splotch on Jimmy’s forearm that just turned out to be from a particularly evil game of Indian Burn. They still play that? Are Purple Nurples still popular too? Because I don’t want to be racing to the ER just because Son #3 has what I deem to be an infestation of hives, but in reality is the neighborhood kid who just has no concept of where another person’s nipples are…We all hope his aim will improve by 17. So does his future girlfriend.

As a secondary utility, while you’re quite versed in fixing medical maladies, you also have the practical knowledge of what hurts most. “Son, you may clean your room, as I’ve asked you to do three times already, or you may find yourself with a Subcutaneous Glutteal Hematoma (a spanking). Your choice.”

Also, perhaps most importantly, if someone ever threatens to harm your precious little angels - you know how to beat them down and not leave any bruises.

The Media, Marketing and Communications: When I was a kid, we had the Grandma Campbell Rule. It went something like this “Would you do what you’re about to do if Grandma Campbell was watching?"

It tended to keep us in check, save for when we decided it would be a grand idea to try and smoke. Factor in the Grandma Campbell Rule there, and she would’ve promptly dropped her knitting needles to teach us how to blow smoke rings and play Cribbage.

With Scotch.

Anyhow, now with technology and, sadly, my Grandmother’s apparent inability to teleport (damn, I would have like to inherit THAT; instead of that chafing dish. What the hell is that by the way? It’s been in my house for eleven years. Clearly I’ve never chafed; well, not from a dish anyway.) I have discovered something just as effective: The Videocamera.

Amazing how kids fall into two distinct brackets when faced with a blinding white light, and some fool saying, “Jimmy, say something to the camera!”

Mine turn to stone. Remarkable, considering their mother basically whips out the device every time they turn around. What do I have? A lot of footage of statue kids. Our home movies are like time elapsed photography, but without the time elapsing.

Other kids turn into jumping, flailing, face-making, pants-dropping, Jim Carey wanna-be comedians.

Moms, this is called ammunition. SAVE IT.

Again, one day, when the “gang” is coming over to your house to hang out, you can retreat to the family room, and play these old home movies REALLY LOUD.

Then your son’s almost-girlfriend can see him at the age of 4, when he got out of the bath, and put on his belt. Only his belt. Then grabbed Dad’s briefcase and said “I have to go to business.” And my disembodied voice said, “you’re going to work?” And he slowly closes his eyes and shakes his head, like he's thinking "wow, there goes two seconds of my life I can't get back," and says slowly, for my feeble mind, “No. Girls go to work. I. Am going. To business.”

And your daughter’s friends can see her when she decided to become a performance artist and spread Desitin over her entire body. Two tubes. And then fingerprint on her own stomach, taking great care to paint “big boobies” as the circles consumed more and more of her tiny torso.

Factor in Facebook, and you have ready-made extortion. They agreed to it when they checked the box joining said group. It's called Terms of Use. Fabulous.

Mom: I want you home by 1am. We have church in the morning, and you need to be ready and pleasant and not snoring during the homily.
Kid: Ugh. Mooooooooom. No other kid has to be home that early. This sucks. It’s not like you’ll be awake anyway.
Mom: Tell you what, kiddo, for every 5 minutes you’re late, I post 2 minutes of Your Funniest Home Videos on your Facebook page. I’ve got about 40 hours of the stuff. You can be as late as you like.
Kid: [unintelligible grumbling combined with door slamming]

[1am, door creaks open – mom smiles victoriously]

Teachers & Educators: You guys could enter a room of 26 5-year olds, and have them sitting in Circle Time, reciting the alphabet within 90 seconds. You knew their names on the 2nd day, as well as all their little quirks that Mom and Dad weren’t even aware of yet. They gazed up at you with the awe reserved for the Wizard of Oz and Santa Claus. Your rules superseded ANY and all rules. “Mom, Mrs. Michaels says SpongeBob isn’t good for our developing minds.” And, poof, your quiet 20 minutes in the kitchen has been replaced by “we can help you – how many eggs should we crack? – mom, you said not to drink out of the milk container, but you’re drinking from the wine bottle – why does it smell like burning? – I dropped an egg – no I get to crack it – MOM!”

Now that you are a mommy, you have a well developed crevice above your nose that has furrowed to the point where your eyebrows, on occasion, actually touch. Your kid has quirks that in all seven years of teaching, you never experienced one of them. You say things like, “I have a Masters in Early Childhood Education,” and burst into hysterical laughter.

But take heart my Molder of Small Minds. You have the power that all kids fear. Wanna freak your kid out? Grades aren’t what you think they should be? Is he blowing off Algebra, because “really, who uses that in real life?” (Sidebar: I’ve still never used it.)

You. Are. Friends. With. The. Principal.

My kids get completely discombobulated when they see their teachers outside of school. I truly believe the kids think they live there, in caves under their classroom. My son, horror-stricken at seeing one of his teachers in shorts and a t-shirt at the grocery store one day rather than the school-appropriate shirt and tie, refused to speak with him. When his teacher was out of ear-shot, my son, incredulous, said “Mom, Mr. Petrie has ARMS!”

Imagine the horror if those arms were resting on my sofa, swigging on a beer. People who you mentally expect in certain venues DO NOT BELONG IN OTHER VENUES.

Complete sidebar: I know this works. We were invited to a BBQ one Sunday. Probably 40 guests with kids. We’re chatting away, the kids are playing. The host says to McLovin and me, “I'd like to introduce you to a good friend of mine” – and, suddenly, I am face-to-face with a face I already know. We exchange pleasantries, acting as if we've never met. McLovin whispers, “He’s so familiar.” Whispering back, I say, “Yes, he’s my gynecologist.” To which my middle son, tucked on my hip, hollers “What’s a gynelogilist mom? MOM! No I DON’T WANT DOWN. WHATS A GUY-NEE-LOJO-LIST?

Pro Se, Pro Forma, and Pro Zac: I wander around my house thinking I’m part-Jack McCoy and part Detective Lennie Briscoe. I can find the smallest sliver of evidence that proves Child 1 did in fact take Child 2’s i-Pod and replaced the ear buds with the newer, therefore better, pair. Not only do they believe that I have eyes in the back of my head, they think I can rewind life. Like honestly hit a virtual rewind button and watch their day pass in front of me on an invisible TV in reverse. That is, by far, my best con. I figure with the straight face that MUST accompany that gig, I should seriously play that Million Dollar Poker Match. I can’t play cards for shit; but I can bluff.

So, for you once-was litigators, prosecutors and incarcerators, you may have the easiest transition to Mom Life. Three words. Be. The. Judge.

If Sally takes Bobby’s favorite pencil and breaks it, then Bobby gets to decide Sally’s punishment. No sleepovers for a week? Done. Case closed. Sally has to make Bobby’s bed every morning? Brilliant case, counselor. Denial of dessert, movie choices, pay up five bucks, it’s all fair game. We call it Summary Judgment. No juries, no pleading of cases. The “victim” simply decrees the punishment proportional to the transgression committed against them.

I’ve put my heel through a cell phone, taken a bedroom door off the hinges, and allowed my son to spit on an entire day’s worth of his sister’s meals. (She spit on him, I considered it not only fair, but poetic.) The best part of this punishment? Putting a snack in front of my daughter, forgetting about the Loogy Law, and hearing my son running upstairs and hollering, “WAIT! I get to spit on it first!”

It absolves you of coming up with, enforcing, or feeling the guilt from said punishment. And, you’ll discover that your children can be surprisingly lenient with each other. One could argue it’s their better nature coming through. One could also argue they know that the person they get to hurl a dodge ball at now will be the same kid who will be making them taste soap later.

It also beats being sold to China.

Fifty-Three Hours

I never thought it would happen. This morning, my husband took the little terror suspects to their grandparents' house on a three hour train ride. I actually dropped them off at the train station. I'm still wondering if I may been a little too eager with my departure. Fearful of the "you know, come to think of it, maybe we should just wait until Friday and go with you..." I blasted everyone with huge wet kisses (it distracted them, wiping away the mess, while I quickly retreated back to the driver's seat. And they say moms have no strategy...)

They were seven paces from the curb when then car vanished, like VANISHED. Though the lingering sounds of my singing "Miz Independent" -- grossly off-key -- are probably still banging off the marble walls of the train station. I'm anticipating a bill for the broken glass.

I got to plead the #1 man's defense: I. Have. To. Work. And, since I've pointed out earlier that my job is one of those work-when-you-can jobs, McLovin actually said, "well, I'll take the kids on the train, and you drive up after work, so we can all come home together."

What needs to be reiterated was that they left THIS MORNING. And I work on Friday. Moms, please, do THIS math. Not for a grade, not for a kid who has to do math.

Do it so you can see, on paper, what I'm seeing:
Husband and LTS leave on Wednesday morning, 11am.
Mom not expected to arrive until FRIDAY late afternoon/early evening.
Do you see what I see?

Fifty-three hours

Fifty-three hours of peeing by myself.
Fifty-three hours of not cutting up anyone's dinner.
Fifty-three hours of snore-free, taking-up-the-middle-of-the-bed sleep. (OK don't do the math here, mostly because I won't be sleeping away my time.)
FIFTY-THREE HOURS of bad, really bad, chick movies....with no one sighing at me.

I have the ENTIRE DVD collection of "North & South" from when Patrick Swayze was young, hair-in-a-mullet, and antebellum. Bring. It. On.

Even better...I have SINGLE friends...who live like this every day. And who write e-mails that say, "K -- miss you. Will be at Bistro B for cocktails. PLZ come join us if you can" and I think, "on what alternate universe can I join you." AHA AHA...THIS alternate universe.

I write back, "hey if you're still doing cocktails next Wed I'm def in..."


Hmmm, they all have Blackberrys. I wonder what's taking -- well, clearly they're on a flight. All. of. them?

And then I flashback to 10 years ago, when I sent the "join us" emails to people I knew would NEVER come...and reveled in my commitment-free life. Am I now part of the "let's ask Kate so she feels better but can't make it" crowd?

Suddenly, the house really does feel empty. No one needs me. Dad will be the Superhero all weekend; maybe on Friday I can be Robin...or Bat Girl...

The *ding* brings me back to my computer. "Are you serious?? You can escape??? For how long? We're dying to see you!! We found a new bar we just love, but you have to commute in, is that OK? How about 7:30? I'll get you deets. XOXO C. BTW, McLovin knows what he's taking on right???"

I'm back, baby, if only for a night.

As for McLovin, does he know what he's in for? I'm not sure. But he's doing it anyway. And this, girls, is the reason we love them.

Now, what the hell am I gonna wear? There are some serious shoes that have been neglected. Some fun new fruity -tini drinks that may have been discovered since I last did this...I don't care if it's a cold beer. It's a cold beer not in my house. It's a cold beer OUT.

And then, when I get home, things will look just like they did when I left, save the dog, but, really, he only moves around to escape the little terror suspects. He'd be quite happy in Afghanistan; seems there are some really good hiding places there.

Big quiet house...I'm driving the remote...I'm totally eating a box of girl scout cookies AND raiding the Halloween stash. I have never spent the night alone in my house. Not once.

I'm contemplating putting on a crown for the Inaugural Festivities, waving out the windows and surveying my lands. My kingdom. For the first time in a decade, my quest for silence has been fulfilled. Ahhhh...

Wow, it really is real quiet, isn't it?

I think I miss them already...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Special Guest Writer: Mommy Cliques

I hate cliques. If you haven't seen "Mean Girls", check it out. Tina Fey did a fabulous job of conveying in just under two hours the lifetime of damage high school cliques can do to a person. I especially recommend this movie if you have a girl. I was fortunate enough to attend a high school larger than all but two towns in the state of Wyoming, so the cliques were big enough that they had lost all exclusivity, thus rendering their powers useless.

But parenthood changes many things, and now I am part of a Mommy Clique. Oh, you aren't. Anyone with a child HAS to join one. There is no way around it once the child is in school and doing afterschool activities. I'm sure we are all familiar with the cliques, but I will list the most common ones (at least the common ones in my neck of the woods) and its high school equivalent for ease of identification.

The Volunteers-A-Lot Mommy (Student Body Officers, Yearbook Staff)
Identifying characteristics: Always out of breath when she speaks to you, as she is rushing from one volunteer project to the next. Constantly asking about your Sally Foster or Creative Works order. Has every parent's phone number stored in her cell phone. Never, ever answers her phone when you call. Actually owns a sewing machine. Drives large 10 seater SUV to cart around art supplies, Girl Scout cookie orders, and entire soccer teams.
Little Known Facts: Afraid earth may stop orbiting the sun if she fails to help with reading workshop. If made to feel that her "work" is not important, may turn violent. Extremely fun while drunk. Surprisingly cool.

The Popular, Gorgeous Mommy (Cheerleaders, Soccer Stars, Prom Queen)
Identifying Characteristics: Never seen alone, usually in groups of at least three. Always looks great, even at 8am Saturday soccer games, with Starbucks grande skim no-foam latte in hand. Wears $1200 Aquascutum jacket to Field Day. Drives Mini Cooper, and makes sure you know she saw Cold Play when they were in town, because she's cool, damnit.
Little Known Facts: Had awful post-partum but is fine now, just fine (with the help of medication). Has hot husband who makes bank but insists that house be spotless 24/7. Depends on friends as lifeline to sanity. Has random, geriatric hobbies like crocheting afghans or watching Lifetime movies. Gets silly with a little provocation and likes it.

Four-Under-Six (Kids, that is) Mommy (Key Club, Church Youth Group)
Identifying Characteristics: Considers Chapstick to be makeup. Has runny-nosed toddler on hip, is expecting again, and has a standing order for Prozac at CVS. Wears grey sweats and hair in pony tail. Drives Blue Honda Minivan.
Little Known Facts: Has banned Cabernet from her house, as it was how last two children were "accidentally" conceived. On more than one occasion has threatened to chemically castrate her husband while he sleeps. So deep in The Blur (see post 11/4/09) that she may no longer respond to her own name (only to "Mommy").

The All-Natural, Organic Mommy (Loved Phish, the outdoors, Birkinstocks)
Identifying Characteristics: Wears all natural, non-dyed clothing made from renewable bamboo fibers. Does not inoculate her children or allow them to trick or treat during Halloween. Only eats vegan, certified organic food from Whole Food or Trader Joes. Nursed babies until they were in preschool. Drives hybrid vehicle.
Little Known Facts: Is not actively trying to make you feel like crap because you give your kids Happy Meals, but the sense of superiority derived from this helps make up for the fact that she can't eat bacon. Is acutely aware of the fact that she is judged for her "lifestyle choices". Unashamedly loves bad-ass, nerd icons like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Wars and has mad skills at unexpected things that make her very cool (frisbee, beer pong, unicycle).

The High Powered Mommy (AP classes, National Merit Scholar)
Identifying Characteristics: Very rarely seen, as is constantly in meetings with Exxon Mobil and/or Senator McSleezy. Has carpal tunnel syndrome in thumbs from typing on Blackberry 15 hours a day. Severe haircut that is ridiculously expensive to maintain. Wears Donna Karan suits and heels that hurt to look at. Drives an Audi or BMW, or other sweet car which the children are never allowed to actually sit in, as they might spill on the leather seats.
Little Known Facts: High Powered Mommy is often Single Mommy, often out of necessity. Envy her ability to go out to lunch, look great, pee alone and make uninterrupted phone calls. Pity her the fact that if her nanny flakes one more time she could get fired, her kids alternate between being clingy and mad at her, and she never stops feeling stressed. Has the best and worst of both worlds. If she doesn't drink heavily, she probably should.

As in High School, it is possible to straddle more than one group or move from one group to the next. For example, High-Powered Mommies often become Volunteer-A-Lot Mommies when they get laid off or have another baby and cut back to part-time. Popular, Gorgeous mommies often become Organic Mommies in an effort to become The Perfect Mother, but quickly find that they now even annoy themselves.

I am, as I stated earlier, part of a clique. But it's a very, very exclusive clique and has stiff requirements, i.e., the ability to open a bottle of champagne with one hand and make an entire dinner out of appetizers. Other identifying characteristics include giggling, talking trash about our spouses, and making jokes in very poor taste. The key to our mommy clique is that we use our powers for good and not evil, though we are all thoroughly rotten.

That is really the key to cliques when you are a grown-up: recognizing them for what they are and should have always been - support. Come as you are, we love you anyway support. In High School, we may have been guilty of "girl on girl crime" (as Tina Fey put it in the movie). As adults (and mommies) we are more focused on taking care of other people and making it through the day. And hopefully, after years of careful practice, we have learned to subdue our inner bitches. Sure, there are some Mean Girl mommy cliques out there that use their power for evil. We call them covens. We avoid them like the plague and never, ever invite them out for drinks.

--XOs from Kate and Lydia to our very first SGW, Jenni C, who penned this little gem.

Monday, November 9, 2009

BUT I just wanna ask a question....

Monday's tend to motivate me. Football gets me all fired up, the gym opens at some ass-crack of dawn, and I tend to get $h*t done on a Monday.  6AM the alarm hits. I. am UP. Will today be the bike, a run, weights? Any and all things to keep age at bay. McLovin married a girl 12 years his junior; I intend to make him remember that.
So, in the dark and quiet of my very sleeping house, I quietly shut the bathroom door, sit down, and soon realize I - the maker of arbitrary rules - have broken #9.  Before my searching hand sits a naked brown tube of what was once TP...  Why didn't I check? AND, more importantly, WHO was the last person in here? Sadly, it might have been me...  What do I do next?  Moms of the world. You, the makers of rules that on occasion come back to kick you in the ass, I ask you...
So, which is it? See that groovy poll to your left. VOTE. It may not get you a new President, Governor or even free health care, but hey, most elections are in the toilet anyhow. Lydia and I are still trying to master the (technical aspects of) the poll - even though our less progenous friends would argue that we already have. Probably too many times...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mommyland Planning Session - Take One

Kate: Hi. What are you doing?

Lydia: Hey, I got home ten minutes ago and its already chaos. I only have a min- What? [pause, child talking in the background] Then go to the potty. I understand. That is why we go the potty. Sorry. So, I had some ideas for tomorrow -- I don't believe for one second that you are afraid of your room. That is an excuse. You just want to be naked. Now go to your room and get dressed!

Kate: So did I! I was thinking about if we did -- [pause, more little voices] No, you just had a snack. [longer pause, accompanied by whining] Sorry, hold on. We're having dinner in an hour, you can wait until then. Ugh. I think they know the instant I get on the phone. Anyway...

Lydia: What about writing a post about when your husband -- [groan] Good GAWD. Just a second. WHAT?! [pause] TOMMY! Do not pick up the baby and put her places! Come on. Crap. Where was I?

Kate: Our husbands are something -- Just a second! [pause] I'm on the phone.

Lydia: That's all I said? Shit. I don't remember now. Stupid Blur. Ummmm, lemme think...

Kate: I was talking to a friend about it, and came up with the idea of -- damn, I'm gonna hurt someone. Do you see this black thing attached to my ear? What does that mean? Right, I'm on the phone. I'll be done in a few minutes. You may go outside or you may go downstairs. OK, so we were thinking that we could --

Lydia: Hey hold on a second for me. Why is she crying? [pause] How did the baby get in the laundry basket? [pause] Is that cheese? Who gave her cheese?! [pause, with sigh] I swear to God, Kate, we don't have any cheese in the house. That is so weird.

Kate: [midconversation] -- broken? Is he bleeding? Is he ON FIRE? Then go away. Without stomping, please. What?

Lydia: [whispering] I'm hiding in the garage.

Kate: Brilliant. I'm going to the laundry room.

Lydia: OH, I totally remembered. I was thinking it would be fun to do one about -- shit. What? [pause] I'm hiding. [pause] I'll take care of it in just a minute. [pause] Stop, I'll do it in a minute. This is hilarious. I don't think I've finished a sentence yet. Oh for the love of Pete. Go. To. The. Potty. Ugh - the other line is ringing. Like I can even talk to one person -- hold on a sec.


Kate: [while on hold] Did you finish your homework. I'll come up when I'm done. [pause] Nunya. [pause] Nunya, like nunya business. I'm talking to Lydia, nosy. [pause] It's totally nosy. You need to finish your homework. [pause] [to other child] Why did you change clothes? [pause] Do you do the laundry? Go change back. [pause] It is NOT hot outside! [pause, with groan] One, it's not hot. Two, don't roll your eyes at me. Three, did YOU finish your homework? [pause] Ugh, no I can't call the school at 5:30 and see if they'll let you in to your classroom. [pause, with pleading child] You'll just have to explain it to --

Lydia: I'm back.

Kate: Hey. I'm in hell.

Lydia: Girl, welcome. I've been there all month. Good job, honey. Now wash your hands. No! Wash your hands! Don't touch your--- Aw COME ON!

Kate: I opened a bottle of wine 45 minutes's been a gooooood day.

Lydia: I'm right behind you. I'm gonna have to pump and dump again but Jenny said you only have to if you drink more than 2 glasses. How big do you think a glass is? Like, 8 ounces?

Kate: [laughing] You still need to tell me what your idea was. The last thing you said was "shit." Which would be funny.

Lydia: [screaming suddenly in the background] I will, but there's a smack-down going on in my kitchen so I'll call you later.

Kate: OK. Bye.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Did I Get Here?

I recently pulled into a spot in the Target parking lot, hung up my phone and thought: "How the hell did I get here?" This was not a metaphysical question. At that moment, I had no memory of driving there, who it was I had just been speaking to, and no bloody idea what I was there to buy.

You may ask yourself: "Had she been drinking?" A very good question! But sadly, no. Besides, I would never drink and drive. They say texting and driving is almost as bad. And I would never do that either. Unless I was at a red light. Or in really bad traffic. Because that is texting and stopping. And therefore doesn't count. Safety first, people. But I digress...

What explanation do I have for this moment of amnesia in the Target parking lot? I have none. My father describes the years when his children were young as "The Blur". So that's where I was - deep in the Blur. My father is a somewhat inconsistent source of wisdom on parenting issues, but he hit the nail squarely on the head with this one. I am on a 24-hour cycle of waking, sleeping, nursing, napping, cooking, cleaning, wiping, folding, dropping off, picking up and putting away. And it never ever ends. I was once a very smart person. I was 2 semesters into a Doctorate when I had my first kid. Now, I am a moron. That's what The Blur has done to me.

It's not just my (questionably sane) family, either. My friend has three girls that were born within four years of each other, during which time her husband was frequently deployed. She is totally together, beautiful and smart. She is also completely into her kids, who adore her. When I asked her what her youngest was like as a baby, she just looked at me, blinking. "I have no idea," she said "You don't think I remember any of that, do you? 2003-2006 is basically just a stretch of unpleasant fuzziness with a lot of diapers thrown in." The Blur got her, too.

Let us establish consensus on a few points. First, The Blur is real. Second, it is coming for you. Third, sooner or later it will get you. Should you wonder if this eventuality has already come to pass, here is a handy checklist. If any of the following remind you of yourself, its too late - you're in The Blur:

  • You open the fridge and stare at its contents. You try to remember what you need. You see that you have a cup of black coffee in your hand and think gleefully: "Ahh.. yes... Milk!" Later, when you see one of your children staring vacantly at the open refrigerator, you yell at them to close the door before they cool the whole damn house.
  • You think you returned an important phone call. You suddenly think, maybe I didn't. Maybe I am just remembering that I was supposed to. You check your cell phone's call log to find no record of any call. You sigh, dial the remarkably familiar number to hear the voice of the receptionist you just spoke with. On your home phone. You quickly hang up before speaking.
  • You and your spouse are finally alone in a quiet house at 9:45 pm. You have a conversation consisting entirely of one-syllable words (i.e. "Good day?" or "Paid Sprint?") and grunts ("Mmm hmm"). Also, nodding. Then one of you falls asleep.
  • You hear one of the little terror suspects bleating from the back seat: "Mooooommm, what are we doing here? We're supposed to be at praaaactice not my schooool!" and realize that your subconscious drove you to the wrong place as you mentally planned how to fit six hours of work into the twenty minutes you will have at home. Now you are late. Panic ensues.
  • Tuning out the chattering of little monkeys, you relax for a moment. You look at your beautiful daughter, smile and say: "So, how was school today? Did Miss Brown substitute for you again?", all the while congratulating yourself that you are so in touch with what's happening in her class. She looks concerned and answers: "Um... Mommy, you already asked me that. Twice."
  • You find yourself in the Target parking lot, wondering how did I get here? Why am I here? Who was that on the phone? What's my name? Where's my tail? (Thankfully, cell phones are useful sources of historical information and I found a list in my pocket that said - Target: flour, half and half, cat litter, wine).
Since I am clearly trapped in The Blur for the foreseeable future, I see no other course of action but to try and enjoy it. I have tried and failed to retrieve some of my former intellectual sharpness, for example, the ability to remember my home phone number. In a given week, I might have one good day. But with that mental clarity comes a self-awareness that can be painful. A bit like a long look in the mirror, in blaring natural sunlight, with a bad hangover. Then comes the metaphysical question: "Oh. My. Gawd. How did I get here?"

So, I choose to embrace The Blur - perhaps it's the Universe trying to make this phase of my life easier. Why fight it? It's temporary. Someday I might be smart again, maybe. I will be able to think complex thoughts or construct a sentence or read books intended for adults. But until then... Bring on the size XL glass of wine every night! Facebook? Oh hell yes. Real Housewives of New Jersey? Thank you very much, I will. People Magazine, US Weekly, and other IQ-sucking publications? You betcha. Twilight saga? Bring it. You know what Blur, I might even miss you when you're gone.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nine Simple Rules for Living with Me

OK, so only my husband voluntarily CHOSE to live with me...the other three, and the dog, I either made or bought, so I try to give them a break. After all, with me as a mom, sometimes it's like being given an 18-year Gulag sentence the moment they were born. My kids are thinking, "Where was the trial? Did I have a defense? Where's Jack McCoy when you need him?"

So, they do what any hardened criminal, convinced of their own innocence would do. They riot. They may not be burning the place down, but don't think I haven't already rid the house of incendiary devices, just in case.

I think my husband leaves work every day and braces for the inevitable tsunami of destruction and debris from the day's events. Last night, two of the three were in mismatched jammies and the third was wearing part of his Halloween costume. They were playing war, in our bed. I'm not sure how the game is played, but it's loud, and I think the pillows filled the role of either prisoners-of-war or weapons. Maybe both.

I, dutifully, as in all great wars, was Switzerland. Hearing the shrieks -- which, given your state of mind, could have been of grand fun, or terror...I'm content to assume the former -- he says to me, "should we see what's happening down there?"

It was the "we" that got me thinking...ergo: The Rules

1. "We" is either something very small, or a French term of agreement. When referring to our small terrorists, if it is an activity that should be investigated, it is either you, or me. If it's you, go in peace and with my greatest blessings. If it's me, unless they're holding a bottle of wine hostage, I'm not going down there.

2. Unless one of your siblings is either broken, bleeding, or on fire, I don't want to know about it.

3. When you become a famous and well-paid critic, you may pass judgment on dinner. Until then, you're still the people who chew off your toenails and taste, if not eat, things you find in your nose. I'm not terribly concerned about your discriminating palate.

4. Please don't say something along the lines of "wow! did you see the news today?" Unless one of Dora the Explorer's stops is New York Times building, I have no clue what happened. I can, however, tell you who went poop, and where they did it. Because that location changes ALL the time.

5. How I look is your best clue as to how the children behaved. When you come home and I'm unshowered and still wearing the same clothes as yesterday, assume your progeny behaved just as they did on Saturday when you started drinking at noon. If I, however, look like Betty Draper, your credit card will reflect the purchase of three first class tickets to Cuba. I'm sure we'll get a postcard at some point.

6. If you want me to play a guessing game - as in "mom, guess what?" or "dear, you'll never guess what happened today" - I want a handicap. For every wrong guess, I get to walk three paces away from you. With any luck, by the time I get it right, I'll be in Tahiti.

7. The decibel level of you calling for me is inversely proportional to the likelihood I'll answer.

8. When Zac Efron, Han Solo and Diego pay you thousands of dollars to put their faces on your t-shirts, shoes and backpacks, I'll shut up. Until then, we don't do endorsements.

9. If you close the bathroom door BEFORE assessing the toilet paper supply, as far as I'm concerned, you're on your own.

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