Archives for April 2011

Inflection

In-flec-tion :  change in pitch or loudness of the voice – a : the change of form that words undergo to mark such distinctions as those of case, gender, number, tense, person, mood, or voice.

Fuck: Slang. (used to express anger, disgust, peremptory rejection, etc., often followed by a pronoun, as you or it. )
Origin: 1495–1505; akin to Middle Dutch fokken.
Related forms : fuck·y, adjective

Sometimes as I write a post, I wonder what people are going to think. After all, my in-laws read this stuff, cousins, aunts and uncles tune in for the latest episode. Friends new and old, people who go to church on a weekly basis, people who have advanced degrees, people who remove children from the homes of unfit parents….gasp. Sometimes even I momentarily wonder what people think of me, as a parent. This is one of those posts.

By 1:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon this precious angel had dropped the f-bomb precisely seven times that I am aware of. That’s right – this is a first hand account of the f-bombs that I actually heard leave the lips of my tiny toddler. When she’s out of ear-shot, I have no idea what she’s saying, thus proceed with the (mistaken) assumption that she probably isn’t saying that word.

I began the day with the admittedly unrealistic hope that the word had lost its appeal during her peaceful slumber. I lay in bed nursing my cold’s second horrible day of existence, while desperately attempting to psych myself up for my gig as Parent Helper. You’ll be fine, I told myself. How bad can three hours be? So what if Kate has to come along? She’ll play and she’ll be perfectly…
“Ah, fuck…I stuck,” she blandly remarked from the behind the gate on her bedroom door. “Daddy? I stuck!”
pause
The sweet whispering voice of my two year old traveled down the hallway. “Fuuuuuck,” she whispered to no one in particular, she was just making an exasperated statement to get her day rolling. I sighed and began to pray that she wouldn’t let it rip in front of the preschool set.
After I dragged my ailing body from my bed and showered, I caught Kate so I might brush her hair into some semblance of respectability. I popped her on top of my bathroom counter, ran the brush through her fine waves and promptly encountered a sticky tangle of mystery goop. Her hand rose to the area of the knot and she furrowed her tiny eyebrows, “OUCH, FUCK MAMA!” Her eyes challenged me to just go ahead and try that again and her language told me that she meant business. Ignoring the mini Clint Eastwood glaring at me in the mirror, I said, “No, no, Kate! Bad word!”

A few minutes later, we were in her bedroom getting her dressed for the day. As I changed her diaper I teased, “Pew! You’re stinky Katie!” She laughed out a hearty, “Ah fuck, I stinky!” I tapped my index finger on her lips and said, “No! Bad word.” She began crying. Clearly, I thought, I need to find a different tactic.

Finally, the girls and I were backing out of the garage when I smacked the passenger side mirror on the way out. (Yes, that’s the third time since January, so sue me.) Of course the loud banging sound was a bit startling and when I got out to fix the mirror, I found it’s guts hanging out. I re-entered the car to Kate’s questioning, “Fuck, Mama?” I mentally thought, yes that’s a big fuck Kate but, taking the advice of some old friends on Facebook, I ignored the word. Perhaps a lack of reaction would help it lose it’s appeal.

The thing is, she’s using it appropriately in every instance. Her inflection is always appropriate. She’s using the F-bomb in a conversational manner and not for shock value. How the fuck do I stop that? I pondered this deeply disturbing revelation as I drove in to town and was lost in thought as we parked and walked into the school. At the threshold of the door Kate froze and shrieked with terror, “FUCK! BUG!” I ignored it and resolved to tell anyone who overheard the following script that I had rehearsed in my head.

No, no…she’s saying ‘frog’…it just sounds like fuck. I know isn’t that silly? We’re working on the pronunciation because it’s really embarrassing. ah ha ha ha!!

I avoided Kate at preschool.

Later, when we’d finally returned to the confines of our house and she started to drop F-bombs again,  I began paying close attention to the myriad ways in which Kate used the word to convey her emotion.

Perhaps my favorite to date happened as she was running through the house then slipped and fell off the step leading into the kitchen. She couldn’t see me stifle a smile as she growled an exasperated, “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck”  as she lay prone on the floor. Despite myself, that one made me happy.

The final f-bomb that I heard yesterday happened when she fumbled her ba-ba. It hit the floor at her feet and, well…you know what she said. From my sick bed, I heard David’s lame attempts to stop her and slowly drifted off to sleep.

I’ve begun various methods to dissuade her use of that word. I don’t laugh. I’ve sternly said NO! I’ve tapped her lips and said, NO! I’ve said, “do not say FUCK!” I’ve threatened soap – but I think she’s a bit young for that punishment…but then again, she’s also a bit young to have grasped the (im)proper usage of the word “fuck”. I’ll admit that in this area, I have failed as a mother. No need to state the obvious…I haven’t said it in front of her for at least a week.

Consumed

This week, we want fightin’ words.

Write a piece about a fight. What happened? Why? Who “won”? What were the repercussions?

Show us. Use emotion. Description. If it’s a fist fight, what did it feel like to hit someone – or be hit? What does it feel like to be screamed at – or get the silent treatment?

This can be fiction or non-fiction. Your choice.

Come back Friday and link up!

I come from a family that wasn’t afraid to punch someone in the face if they stepped out of line. Lest you think that we’re all a bunch of angry psychopaths, allow me to clarify. In our early years many punches were thrown at one another, along with professions of intense sibling hatred, but if someone outside of the clan threatened one of us, they picked a fight with all of us. Familial loyalty always trumped an argument if an outsider dared to threaten one of us with violence. Except for my sister…she just tended to dissolve into tears and duck.

When I was 10-years-old, my brother and I were removed from the school bus for fighting with the “Bad Kid” that lived up the road. The Bad Kid picked a fight with my brother. They were both five years older than me, but that didn’t stop me from offering my assistance. Having faithfully tuned in to The Bionic Woman each week, I felt fully empowered as I charged down the narrow aisle of the school bus and launched myself onto the Bad Kid’s back with all of the confidence and gusto of Jaimie Sommers. I was dervish of scratches and slaps but sadly lacked any of the bionics that would have aided my brother in actually disabling the Bad Kid. The only thing I accomplished was ripping Bad Kid’s glasses from his face. Next thing I knew, we were left standing on the side of the road in a cloud of dust while the bus pulled away.

Years later, my brother and I were visiting my father in Florida. I was a senior in high school and going through some pretty heavy stuff. I’d venture to say that year was one of my most troubled from an emotional standpoint. I was suffering from crippling depression, living with an evil stepfather and suffering from some serious abandonment issues as the result of my parent’s divorce. I was also dating ‘that’ boyfriend-the one and only boy I ever allowed to walk all over me.

I don’t recall much about that year’s trip to Florida, but what I recall about the night in a particular Florida parking lot is family legend. At times laughed at and, at times, a disturbing glimpse into my dark state of mind at that time.

It all began innocently enough with a family dinner at a restaurant near Fort Meyers beach. Having sufficiently gorged ourselves, we returned to the Cadillac in the parking lot while my brother stayed behind to pay the bill. My father, stepmother, stepsister and I waited in the car, illuminated by the building’s flood lights, and quietly remarked about how full we were when a man stumbled out from the bushes. He briefly paused, swaying dangerously close to the tipping over point and allowed his bleary eyes to adjust on the car. With concentrated effort he raised his middle finger at us and screamed, “You fuckin’ snowbirds!” Then with the exaggerated gait of a cartoon turtle, his neck preceding his body, he shuffled off toward the entrance of the bar, turning once more to reiterate that we were, in fact, a lousy bunch of “fucking snowbirds!”

It was at that moment that my brother chose to exit the restaurant. Through my passenger window, I saw his mouth say something to the effect of, “What’s your problem?” That’s all it took for the The Drunk to begin punching. Within seconds, fists were flying and, in some rage-induced loss of consciousness, I leaped from the Cadillac. As my brother, who was doing just fine on his own, fought with the suddenly lucid and strong drunk man, I stood behind him and threw my own flailing punches. I vaguely remember my brother attempting to push me out of the way but, mostly, I saw only that man.

Never before had I been so consumed by adrenalin and rage. I was swept away and into some dark place of violence. This drunk, angry man had plucked at the final string that was holding me together in that year. No one knew what was happening in the depths of my troubled mind. Depression and abandonment weren’t topics of discussion in schools or at home. Anger, hatred and resentment boiled to the surface and spilled from my petite body. I felt my fingers connect with his shirt then I plunged in deeper to gouge at his skin with my fingernails. He pulled his arm back in surprise.

First, he became my stepfather and then everyone who had ever let me down or purposely belittled me. Mostly, he became that blackened darkness that had begun it’s ugly swirling inside of my body and robbing me of my life. I punched him in the back as my brother tried to lead him away from me. I was angry that my punch wasn’t as hard as I expected it would be and momentarily thought of the dreams I’d had when I would swing to punch with all of my might, only to deliver a feather light touch on impact.

I remember hearing my father’s voice from afar…”Goddamn it, I just wanted to go home to watch T.J. Hooker.” Then I heard his familiar and authoritative State Trooper command to stop fighting. The Drunk whirled to throw a punch at my father who efficiently stopped the punch in mid-air then twisted The Drunk’s arm behind his back and threw him to the ground. I vaguely recall being awed by how easily my father had performed that maneuver to subdue The Drunk. I momentarily wondered how many times he had performed that move in his career as a police officer. The Drunk bounced off the bumper of a car and landed on the asphalt of the parking lot. That’s were I fell upon him, still riding the wave of my rage-induced lack of consciousness.

Slowly, I began to realize that the pointy-toed boot kicking the man in the ribs was mine, as was that voice that was screaming profanities that would make a sailor blush. “You leave my brother *#$(*#*G  alone, you @($damn piece of $*(*&*%$# #***%*%*!” Each kick squarely connected with The Drunk’s body making a series of horrible solid thumping sounds.

Slowly, the veil of rage that had wrapped itself around me began to lift. My kicking slowed as the man on the ground lie there moaning. I looked up to see the horrified faces of my stepmother and stepsister looking at us from behind the windshield. I turned to see my father and brother standing side by side. My brother’s eyes were wide. My father looked only slightly shocked, then chuckled slightly before saying, “Get it in the car.”

I went to the door that I’d left hanging open and slid onto the seat, shaking and freaked out. As we pulled away, I looked at The Drunk in parking lot with blood gushing from a wound on his arm and began questioning my existence.

Mommies Don’t Get Sick Days and That Sucks

I like to think that most mothers eventually find their groove. Like finely conditioned athletes, we stoically power through colds, migraines and bouts with projectile vomiting. Sure, we might gag or hold our breath and we might even shed a tear, but we carry on and cross that finish line no matter what the cost. Why? Because that’s the circle of life and, unless you want your children to write tell-all blogs about what a crappy parent you were, you’d better suck it up and perform.

Eventually even the best athlete is bound to suffer an injury. In motherhood, the equivalent of a pulled muscle is strained nerves. It generally occurs after a days-long bout of illness compounded with kid fights, whining, schedule confusion, picky eating and a stint as the parent helper at preschool. Parent Helper Day is the equivalent of the Big Game. Most of the time, you’re prepared for the Big Game and nothing can take you down. You remember to wear your bra and cut up the fruit and show up on time so that you can stand at the door to escort the kid whose mother “has a job” inside so she can tear down the road in her giant SUV.

Eventually, you’re bound to walk on to the playing field with some strained nerves and a nasty cold and, by the end of the Big Game, you are officially placed the injured player list. When your two and a half hours as Parent Helper come to a close, you retreat to the car with your crying children, your shame and your illness and somewhere in the privacy of your drive home you shed an exhausted tear, thankful that you made it through that part of the day.

You cry because you fondly recall the days when you could call in sick and get paid to lay in bed and watch cheesy Lifetime movies. No co-workers ever stood at your bedside demanding that you get up to feed them and wipe their ass. Your co-workers didn’t want to see you in that condition, but your children don’t give a shit. They simply want cookies and Juicy Juice and they don’t care if you have to drag yourself to the kitchen on bloody stumps in order to retrieve them.

In a perfect world, Mommies would be able to call in sick and someone would happily cover our shift without the need to miss work or make the sick mommy feel like a failure for succumbing to germs. But this world isn’t perfect and back when we were dreaming of snuggly babies; no one explained that when you get sick you’re on your own, sister. You’ll throw up then brush your teeth and go make those kids breakfast, dammit! On his way out the door, your hard working husband will cast a sympathetic glance at you and kindly offer you the option of going to bed as soon as he gets home from work. The sentiment is lovely, but the vast amount of time between his offer and the actual arrival of relief looms ahead of you like a hellish marathon.

Once, when Joe was just a baby and we were new parents, I experienced my first bout with simultaneous illness. Joe was running a fever and I knew this because, as a new mother, I shoved a thermometer up his ass at least twice a week to reassure myself that he wasn’t dying. This time, however, he actually did have a fever and as I changed his diaper I felt my own face blazing with heat. In my bleary flu-induced fog, I grabbed the thermometer from the changing table and placed it under my tongue. As I closed my lips around it, I realized that I had just placed the baby’s rectal thermometer in my mouth. The thermometer was promptly spit across the room and I spent the morning disinfecting my mouth with Listerine and toothpaste before calling my sister in New York to cry.

I hate shots, but this year some inner-voice advised me to get the flu shot in the middle of the grocery store on a random Wednesday afternoon. It was totally unplanned. I rounded the corner of the wine aisle and saw a table surrounded by nurses and their shots. There they were, all lined up and eagerly waiting to stab someone in the arm.

Public inoculations generally make me feign bravery. A public inoculation with my four-year-old daughter watching required extra bravado and even a bit of humor. When I feigned terror, the nurses giggled and Gwen rushed to hold my hand. She soothed me, “Don’t worry, Mommy. It’s just a little pinch and it will be over weewy fast.” She patted my hand and tried not to look horrified as the needle approached my arm.

Her eyes widened with terror as she watched the needle pierce the skin of my upper arm. She worriedly met my eyes with panic and expected, I think, for the same kind of wailing lament she lets out when the needle breaks through her skin. I smiled at her to demonstrate my (totally fake) bravery. She stroked my hand and said, “Shhhhh…Just a pinch. Here…have a cookie.” She turned to the nurses wearing a serious expression and with great authority asked, “Can we get a sticker over here?!”


Stink-Eye

It was that exchange that I pulled from my memory bank in my final moments as Parent Helper yesterday afternoon as that same precious little angel hid beneath the jungle gym, refusing to leave the preschool playground. It wasn’t until I offered to call her cab and asked if she remembered the way home that she came out. Her furrowed brow and public use of the ‘stink eye’ told me that she wasn’t happy. She began her dramatic rage-filled exit from the playground, pissed off that I was making her leave because, well…it was time to go and I didn’t feel well. Then I coughed.

Oh, Mama…are you okay?

I really don’t feel well, Gwennie.


I’m sorry, Mama. Let’s go home and you can rest on the couch with me. Would you like to watch a princess movie under a nice warm blankie?

She’s a beautiful little girl.

Family Treasures

Joe is working on a unit at school that involves family treasures from home, especially those having to do with families and nationalities. I wracked my brain trying to think of something that he could bring in to school to talk about his Irish, English or German heritage. Do I send him in with a fisherman sweater on and make him talk about Ireland? Snore…he’d be itchy and bored with the subject matter. Clearly sending him in with a few pints of Guinness is illegal. Do I send him in with some of my English china? Not so much. A German cuckoo clock and a keg of Dinkel Acker? Sauerkraut and some bratwurst? Nothing seemed quite right.

I stood gazing at my little toothless Joe while I made dinner last night. I was boiling the last of the homemade pasta that we’d made on Easter Sunday and tossing it with lemon and asparagus when it dawned on me. (DUH!) One of our biggest family treasures was handed down to me by my Uncle Joe. I’ve written about him often here at Narragansett No. 7. He was a one in a million kind of guy whose parents came to America from Italy. He was the first child of theirs to be born in the United States and he became a beautiful mixture of America and Italy. He played baseball, almost professionally, until he was drafted to serve in WW2. He told me stories of hiding in a basement in Holland as German bombs dropped on the city above their heads. He told me about a time when, through a grapevine of messages, he learned that his brother’s company was near enough for them to find bicycles and ride across the European countryside to just to see one another again in the middle of that war. His eyes took on a glazed far-off quality as he recalled to me the day that he saw concentration camp victims being liberated by the army.



Uncle Joe – kneeling, holding the baseball bat

 My Aunt Lorraine passed his pasta board on to me this winter. It’s simply a large butcher block board that he made years ago specifically for making his homemade pasta. I cried when she handed it to me. As stupid as it seems, that pasta board holds his essence. The wood holds his weight, love and our combined memories. I spent hours with him at that pasta board, coated in dusty flour and sticky dough. Over the years, I watched his hands slowly age as they mixed that pile of flour and eggs into an enormous pile of dough for Christmas Eve or a random Sunday dinner. The size of the meal was always gauged by the number of eggs that he had added to the mountain of flour. In the end, the kitchen would be a jungle of pasta noodles handing to dry.

He taught me how to make homemade pasta and now I make it with my own children. They love the whole messy process, but something tells me they’d love it more if it was Uncle Joe who was rolling the noodles out with them.

Homemade Pasta

3 and 1/2 cups of flour
3 eggs
dash of salt
1/3 cup semolina

Mix the flour, salt and semolina into a mound then create a hole in the middle…as Joe says, “so it looks like a volcano mom!” Crack the eggs into the middle and then using a fork, beat the eggs as if you are scrambling them. Bits of the flour mixture will fall into the middle, mixing with the eggs but you will also stop scrambling to pull flour into the eggs. Keep going until a sticky dough forms and at some point, you’ll being kneading the dough. Don’t make it too dry and flaky! It should stay slightly tacky. Knead the dough until smooth and wrap in plastic wrap until you’re ready to create your noodles.

Here’s where I’m lucky. I have the original pasta machine that my aunt and uncle gave to my mother years ago. I use the pasta machine for the final bit of kneading. You can use a rolling pin to make your noodles but get ready for a workout!

I cut my dough into sections and wrap the sections that I’m not using to let them rest and keep them moist. The section that I’m using goes through my pasta machine’s rollers on the highest setting (8) and we keep rolling until we can get to the setting that we prefer, a “2” which gives a fairly thin noodle. Then the long noodle is finally ready to run through the machine to be cut and hung to dry.

Here is a delicious topping for pasta like papparedelle (wide noodles) that celebrates springtime and the fresh asparagus that is in season.

Pasta with asparagus and lemon
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1 pound pasta (pappardelle is nice, but penne or casarecce is good too!)
1/4 fresh lemon juice
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 freshly grated Parmesan
*bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
*Rinse the asparagus, snap off the tough lower stems and discard. Cut of 11/2 inches of the asparagus tips and reserve. Chop the rest of the stems. Cook the asparagus tips in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes, until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tips and set aside. In the same pot of boiling water, blanch the asparagus stems for 6-7 minutes, until tender. Remove with the slotted spoon and rinse in cold water.
*Cook the pasta in the same pot of boiling water until al dente. While the pasta cooks, puree the asparagus stems, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender or food processor until smooth. If necessary, add a bit of hot pasta water to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.
*Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the asparagus puree, the asparagus tips and grated Parmesan.
YUM!

CHECK IT OUT! I got a new award today. Seriously, it’s like brand-spanking new and created by Bernie at One Mixed Bag and Michele from Living on Less. Such a great idea for an award. Here are the “rules”:

This is a very simple award, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. You can give it to 1 blog, 300 blogs or no blogs. That is up to you. Some ideas of what you could do with the award if you wanted to:

Give it to your favorite blog that has thousands of followers. You know they won’t have this award. I know when I started blogging and I would get awards I want to give them out. Most of the blogs I read already had at least one of them. This award is new today, so you know they won’t have it.

Is there a new blogger you discovered with only a handful of readers? Pass it on to them. They will be thrilled to receive their first award.

Just slap it up on your blog and so say nothing.

Don’t slap it on your blog and do nothing.

Quota Filled!

One of the joys of motherhood is that sometimes you find yourself in situations that smack of the social hierarchy of teenage girls and the social pecking order that you assumed you’d left back in high school. One of the things that my grown-ups never shared with me was that, even as grown-ups, some people never stop campaigning for the title of Prom Queen. There will always be a gossip monger, a shy girl, a natural leader and her faithful hangers-on. Every group has a class clown and the handful of cynical girls who feel that the rest of us are simply a herd of vanilla sheep.

Baaaa.

There is a seemingly endless stream of adults who have carried those social quirks well into their (almost) middle years. Thankfully, most have outgrown their Goth wardrobes and realized that the black hair dye just makes them look sallow and old.

Last week, I attended a parent meeting for my daughter’s cooperative preschool and, since we’re the new kids, this was my first meeting. Upon arrival, as is my normal modus operandi, I located my clique because yes, we still kind of do that. I sat on the fringes, introduced myself to the stranger at the adjacent table with a smile then proceeded to become a fly on the wall. At least, I tried to be the fly on the wall.

Throughout the history of me, I’ve alternated between fly on the wall and girl who unwittingly finds herself running with the ‘social set’ despite what I think is my weird personality. I tend to alternate between funny girl and tortured soul. In high school I was surprised one morning by the class advisor informing me that I’d been nominated for Prom Queen. I was shocked, kind of grossed out and embarrassed but also thrilled that someone liked me. I was slightly upset that I was lumped in with some of the other nominees, a few of whom were of the not-so-nice variety of girls. Oh God, I thought, do people think that I’m one of them?

I’ve digressed, haven’t I?  Back to the preschool parent meeting…

Fly on the wall posture assumed, I sat back and observed. I think that, like most writers tend to be, I’m a people watcher. I’m not just a people watcher, but a people absorber. I sat and politely listened to the issues at hand at the school. Eventually the reminder that we are a cooperative preschool came up and someone on the executive committee attempted to tactfully suggest that, as parents, we should actually try to cooperate with the various committees. She nicely explained that responding to e-mail is a lovely gesture, as is attendance at carefully planned school functions. The word “cohesive” was thrown out into the room and that was when I noticed that a woman sitting near me began to squirm. Closer inspection revealed that the word “cohesive” was hanging over her head and poking her.

It was annoying her.

Moments later that woman, let’s call her Ann T. Social, spoke up and said, “On the subject of cohesion, I’m not here to make friends. I’m here for my child.” She said more on the subject but I was too busy thinking, Oh-Kaaay, she’s a kind of a bitch to listen.

Just days before our (cooperative) preschool meeting, I invited all of the moms in my daughter’s class over for a night out that involved cocktails.  One of those moms was Ann T. Social. Well, Ann didn’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge the invite, let alone show up. So as she made her bitchy announcement to all of the parents of the preschool all I could think was, what a fucking asshole.

Evidently mommies like Ann T. Social have already filled their lifetime friend quota. In the future, perhaps we should all be required to wear a highly visible Friendship Gauge. Just think about the convenience that the gauge would offer. As we’re introducing ourselves to new parents each year we can all just cut to the chase and skip niceties with the ones proudly displaying their already over-flowing Friendship Gauge.

No hard feelings, honey…I’ve filled my quota. See? It says so right here on my gauge.

Following Ann T. Social’s obnoxiously public snub of every person in the room, a few of us made eye contact, subtly validating that we each thought her remark seemed (über-bitchy) crazy. On my ride home I started thinking about the different personalities I’ve encountered in my fledgling career as the mother of school-aged children. I mentally checked off the list of women that I’ve encountered along the way. Yup, I’m pretty sure that high school never ends and I can’t wait to blog about it. Don’t worry; I’m fairly sure that Ann T. Social doesn’t read Narragansett No. 7.

Origins of the F-Bomb

I was in the laundry room last weekend, folding the mountain of laundry and half-listening to David and Kate talk to one another. From three rooms away, I heard something hit the floor followed by Kate jabbering something in her Kate way. I heard David ask, “What did you just say?”

She obliged him and repeated her word. “Fuck.”

David’s footsteps were suddenly coming in my direction. He pushed through the laundry room doors and looked at me with raised eyebrows. “I just dropped something on the floor and Kate said fuck!”

“No she didn’t.” I responded. “She said walk, it just comes out sounding like fuck.”

“No. She said fuck.” His eyebrows were climbing dangerously higher as he shot me a look of silent blame, then turned and left doors swinging in his wake.

It’s my fault. I’ll take the blame on this one, although, he isn’t immune to dropping the F-Bomb…let’s just make that clear. But the truth of the matter is that Kate spends the majority of her time in my presence. Who else would she have learned that filthy word from? Plus, her timing and usage of the F Word reeks of my frustrated responses to a dropped object. You know when you’re trying to rush three children out the door and you’re running slightly behind then a snack cup of Cheerios that you’re struggling to fill implodes all over the floor? Well, I might not realize it in the moment, but I’m quite sure that my response to the Cheerios rolling across the floor is a hearty, “FUCK!”

Can I share something else with you? I’m ashamed of my foul mouth. I am. Really. I’ve dug into the deep dark recesses of my brain, attempting to recover the memory of exactly who it was that swore like a sailor in my childhood. In that very Generation X way, I want to blame someone else for causing my foul mouthed outbursts. But who? I don’t remember anyone swearing quite as much as I do. Maybe it was my brother’s fault. He was five years older and I emulated him. I followed him and his friends around when they didn’t know I was following them. Pre-teen boys swear a lot, don’t they?

Once, I spied my brother and our neighbor sitting in a truck at our farm. Their heads bent over something that was out of my line of sight. I watched from the horse barn until my curiosity got the best of me, then meandered in their direction, dragging a stick through the dirt, I pretended to stumble upon them purely by accident. They were so engrossed in their magazine that they had no idea I was there until it was too late to hide the outdated issue of Hustler. “Whatcha doin’?”

I’ll never forget the look of guilty surprise on my brother’s face. As if they had been delivered an electrical shock, those two boys jumped and let out a startled sound that sounded a bit like a tiny yipping dog, courtesy of their changing voices. “NOTHING! GET OUT OF HERE!” Of course, being the annoying little sister, I completely ignored his seemingly harsh response to my perfectly reasonable query. “Whatcha lookin’ at?”

courtesy Google image search

“Get the FUCK OUTTA HERE!” He yelled in his high-pitched cracky changing voice. Okay, I don’t remember if that’s exactly what he said, but I do remember him yelling at me and his voice cracked. As he was yelling, he stuffed the red, dog-eared magazine under his leg. I shrugged and went on my merry way. I walked off nonchalantly dragging my stick through the dirt and acting as though I hadn’t seen a thing. I feigned complete disinterest in their smut and I allowed him to believe that I was stupid. But I went back. Yes, sir I sure did! After they had gone off to do some weird boy stuff, I went back and snooped in that old truck by the chicken coop. I found what I was looking for behind the driver’s seat. It was filled with the F Word, in every sense of the word.

Yeah, it’s totally my brother’s fault.

Day Two

Tuesday, April 19. The year is 2011. The writer is a woman just beginning her battle. She is slowly realizing that the only war she needs to win is the ongoing war within her own brain.

Its 9:20 in the morning and I’m attempting to work in the hours that I’m most creative, but with the distraction of three children at home. Ominous music from level two of Super Mario Brothers pours from the television in the kitchen and mixes with a deeply philosophical conversation about the origins of Mario’s villains. Gwen wonders if the one wearing pink is named Lady Gaga.

In the family room, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse isn’t entertaining enough, so Kate has crumbled bits of Irish soda bread into the sisal rug and the tufting of the leather ottoman. She put the finishing touches on her mess with a series of milk sprinkles and smears across the leather. I know this because she entered the kitchen bearing a proud smile and wet hair…hair washed in milk that caused me to sprint through the house to investigate the damage.

Sigh

Yesterday morning I felt guilt. Guilt induced by the Facebook statuses of people who are currently enjoying beaches and Disney World with their children. Those people who, as I began to tell myself, were better parents than me. The photographs of their smiling children continuously tell me so. Those people didn’t sacrifice family vacations for stints in graduate school. Those people are no longer saddled with student loan debt from the family’s last stint with graduate school. Those people started their careers as grown-ups in a manner more timely than David and I did.

Yes, I was feeling guilty yesterday morning so I suggested a ride to pick up some new crayons and craft supplies.

I’m a stupid idiot.

On the way, I suggested that maybe we could all get some lunch. Immediately, Gwen assumed that we’d be dining at MacDonald’s. As a parent, I’ve grown to abhor McDonald’s. My overly-dramatic mind has spun the Golden Arches into a den of fat-laden death and Ronald McDonald has come to resemble the clown from Stephen King’s It. Pennywise has nothing on the evil corporate giant backing Ronald McDonald.

They don’t even like the food. It’s the toys they’re after and for some reason, McDonald’s suddenly made me see red yesterday afternoon. I inwardly sighed and said, “You know…there isn’t much that I’d like to eat at McDonald’s, maybe we can try a different restaurant.”

From the rear of the minivan Gwen vehemently shouted, “NO! I WANT McDONALD’S!”

Joe met my gaze in the rear view mirror. “Maybe we could go get pizza, right Mom?”

“That’s a great idea! We all like pizza, right?”

“NO! I WANT McDONALD’S!”

“Gwen, McDonald’s isn’t good for us. Besides you don’t even eat the food…”

“I. WANT. McDONALD’S!”

My hands gripped the steering wheel a bit tighter and my teeth clenched. “Why don’t we try to agree on food that we all like?”

Joe’s eyes told me that he wanted McDonald’s too, but was struggling with compromise. At six-years-old, he is developing reason and consideration. I love him. “I know, Mom…why don’t you get something that you want first and then we’ll go to McDonald’s and get what we want?”

“That’s really nice of you, Joe…” I am interrupted by Gwen’s screaming voice.

“I’M HUNGRY! I WANT TO GO TO McDONALD’S RIGHT NOW!”

At that moment a woman stepped in front of the car without looking and the wheels of the minivan brushed against the curb as I turned the corner of the crowded mall parking lot to avoid her.

That’s it.

“Gwen, do you care at all that Mommy doesn’t want McDonalds? Do you care at all about anyone but yourself?

“No.”

I sat at the traffic light, inwardly seething. My eyes shot daggers across the road at the tacky red and yellow building that has placed my children under its nasty spell. I could smell it from there. The cloying grease of those french fries coats the air and, I imagine, leaves film of tacky grease on anything that comes to rest for too long in the vicinity.

I hate you.

I pulled into the parking lot and threw the van into park. When I grabbed my wallet, I saw that my bank card was missing. My thoughts went back to Sunday when I swiped my card to buy expensive gasoline and placed it in my coat pocket – the coat that was now neatly hanging in the closet at home.

Do I need to describe the chaos, crying and yelling that ensued when Gwen and I experienced our dueling meltdowns?

David took a 1/2 day after my psychotic phone call. You know the one. It’s filled with things like “I hate my life” and “selfish kids” and “spoiled brats” and other filthy expletives.

Before I knew that he was coming home, I made the kids egg salad sandwiches. David entered to find those spoiled children polishing off their cupcakes. The ones we baked on Saturday.

April Vacation – Day One

Look around you and you’ll see a collective look of terror in the eyes of mothers across the country. Millions of mothers woke this morning (hopefully) prepared to enter battle. Like finely tuned machines, the organized mothers planned a week full of fun activities and the mothers with extra loot in the bank booked a vacation to a destination full of sunshine and beaches. Hell, I imagine that millions of children will even be visiting Mickey Mouse this April vacation. I am not one of those mothers.

April Vacation.

Here in Maine, it’s not entirely warm yet. The ground is slightly mucky and there are still a few random piles of granular snow clinging to the earth. The sun is warm, but that breeze is actually bone-chilling for my tiny little Kate. It’s true. She’s thrilled to be outside and stretching those little legs, but the minute the air begins gusting at the top of our hill, our tiny little toddler emits a howl that rivals the wind.



Source

We’ve been outside doing a bit of post-Apocalypse restructuring. No, I’m sorry, that’s not true. I’m completely exaggerating. We’ve been outside performing a bit of spring clean up. You know…the standard fare when it comes to yard work – raking, dog poo search and destroy missions and perennial inspections. I cleaned up the children’s garden a bit, did some pruning and raked the wood chips into some semblance of order. 

  

 As I dug down into the cold brown soil, Kate sauntered over and squatted down next to me. “Dirt, Mama?” she wondered.

“Yes,” I answered. “See these tiny green leaves?”

“Weaves, Mama?”

“Uh, huh, those are our flowers beginning to grow again.”

Her eyes lit up with excitement. “Fwowers, Mama?”

She leaned in and performed an exaggerated toddler snort near the dead stalks of last fall’s coneflower then smiled as if she had whiffed magically fragrant rose. I snapped the old, grey stems and handed them off, providing her with her own skeleton bouquet.

I dug down into the cold dark earth and found a rather sluggish earthworm. Kate was terrified. For her, that worm’s pathetically slow writhing on my palm was akin to the sighting of a giant and hairy man-eating tarantula. Oh, the shrieking that ensued!

What do to…what to do…?

Let me just say this – having added graduate school to the already tight family budget, we’re not able to hang out with Mickey Mouse. To be honest we’re not really even able to go out to lunch without feeling the pinch, but Kate doesn’t “do” worms.

I feel guilty.

They’re watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on television. They’re playing educational games on pbskids.com and Super Mario Kart on the Wii. I printed out some springtime craft ideas which led to their current coloring of sparrow and bee shaped paper airplanes. They are honing their fine motor skills with their crayons and safety scissors.

The other moms are taking their girls to Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique.

Source

My little guy caught the cold that his sister had. He woke with a cough and an ear ache. We snuggled on the couch; we scheduled a game of Super Mario Kart for later so that I can take some time to do some required reading and writing.

I’m being selfish.

Our local library has events set up for vacation. Things like Robot Day and a wildlife rehabilitator will be visiting with his animals. We’re going to do those things. We’re going to spend time together and they’re going to like it. Mommy doesn’t do Disney.
 

source



Fragments

Give me a memory of the color red. Do not write the word ‘red’ but use words that engender the color red when you hear them.
When I was 9, there were some perfect days. There was one summer day that I recall – one of the few – that was filled with the perfect and simultaneous presence of my parents. As if I realized that we were hurtling toward the ending of us, I grasped at the remnants of that day and captured a few tissue-thin memories before they could vanish. I needed to retain a perfect memory of the three of us, together.

It was rare at that point in our existence for them to be home together. The transient fragments of my memory tell me that it was a weekday. The heat was oppressive and in the horse paddock, billows of dust rose under the hooves of the horses. Hot bugs buzzed and dry grass rustled in the scant breeze. I was sitting in the shade of the porch with one of the cats, avoiding movement and wiping beads of sweat from my upper lip, when my mother’s face appeared in the screen of the kitchen window. “Come get your bathing suit on,” she said. Her mouth worked into a wry smile at my delight.

The three of us climbed into a car, I don’t remember which one, and rode past country houses devoid of life. I imagined that the heat had caused everyone else to evaporate. They hadn’t been lucky enough to get a ride to the pool before the scorching sun vaporized them. The radio played the perfect song, causing my father to sing with his arm slung over the seat behind my mother.

We went to Hebron Camp to swim in the public pool together, the only time I remember my father swimming with me. I showed off for him, demonstrating my ability to dive into the deepest water of the pool to retrieve his quarter. I’d burst through the surface triumphantly holding the shining trophy in the air, but also making sure that they were still there. Each time I went under for the quarter, I half expected that when I rose through the bubbles and rubbed the water from my burning eyes, he would be gone. His presence was tenuous.

From a distance, I tread water with only my eyes resting above the surface and quietly marveled at them sitting in the water together. I desperately wanted to witness proof that this day wasn’t a fluke. I wanted to see evidence the day’s warmth was permanent and that our appeal was strong. I swam in circles around them, driving them close. I wrapped my arms around their necks, enjoying the intimacy of our limbs intertwined and my body kept afloat by the water. I clung to them in the pool, eagerly waiting to turn the page on their discord, clinging to the hope that feelings had changed.

The sun began to sag in the sky and, despite the heat, I found myself shivering. I protested when it was time to leave and hid my hands, as if my pruned fingers would be used as evidence that I’d been in the water too long. I hung in the water, unwilling to emerge and return to our home. Through clenched teeth, my mother ordered me to get out.

Sulking and wrapped in my towel, I followed them to the car already noting the distance between them as they walked. We drove through the dusty heat and, from my quiet perch on the backseat; I studied the waves of his brown hair lifted by the wind from the open windows. She said nothing but her eyes came to rest on the view beyond the passenger window. I followed her gaze to the direction of the blazing sun and watched as it began descending into the rolling hills, casting its fiery glow on the horizon.

What Do You Suppose This Means?

The bear was standing at the end of the dirt road, pacing back and forth and thoughtfully scratching his beard. He stopped and looked in my direction. “Where are the Skittles?” he called. “Has no one thrown Skittles away this week?” He was clearly perturbed that the dump was not properly stocked.


image courtesy Google image search

He began to pace again. While his back was turned, I rolled a giant mousetrap to the mouth of the dirt road leading into the dump. Quickly, I baited it with cotton candy and Skittles then performed an efficient army roll into the bushes as I saw him whirling back in my direction. From my post behind a tree, I watched the Game Warden round the bend with his dogs and confront the disgruntled pacing bear.



They argued.

From my hiding place I watched them angrily gesture at one another.
The bear broadly swept his arm in the direction of the dump piles, clearly complaining that there were no Skittles to be had.

A magical rainbow of candy coated niblets
image courtesy of Google image search

Then the Game Warden placed handcuffs on the bear and led him to the paddy wagon. As they drove past, I jumped out from behind the tree, pointed and laughed at the bear while screeching, “SKITTLES!”

The bear slumped in his seat and placed his head in his paws as the paddy wagon turned onto the main road and disappeared.



Paddy Wagon source

Turning to the right, I began walking across the paved road and away from the dump. I could see my sister and my friend Jodi, the one from high school, sitting together on a bench and looking at a photograph. As I approached, they held up a Glamour Shot of my junior prom date.

“Guess who I’m dating?” my sister called in a sing-song voice. They giggled.

“You can’t date him, you’re married!” I huffed.

They both gazed at me as if I was a moron and then Jodi piped up. “She can do whatever she wants! Besides…he’s HOT!”

They dissolved into a fresh round of giggles and I noticed that the man version of my junior prom date was wearing makeup in his Glamour Shot.



Not my Junior Prom Date
image courtesy funnyphotos

My cell phone rang.

“Hello, Aunt Kelli? It’s Sam. Can you tell my mom that I’m with the Long Island Serial Killer?” beep…silence.

“Uh, Traci… that was Sam and she’s with the Long Island Serial Killer.”

My sister and Jodi continued gazing at my prom date’s Glamour Shot and ignoring me. Suddenly, I’m enraged that she’s cheating on her husband with my prom date. Worse, she’s completely unfazed that her daughter is in the deadly grasp of a serial killer.

Whatever.

I walked away, leaving them there with the stupid Glamour Shot and made my way into the mall parking lot. I was trying to find a parking space and my damn car was becoming really heavy. Finally, I dropped the car in a spot outside of the mall and made my way across the pavement to the entrance.

It took a really long time because I decided to crawl like a worm.

My ex-love

Finally, I reached the entrance and stood up. I fought my way through a crowd of protesters inside of a store selling dresses from India and located the employee entrance to Neiman Marcus. I entered, pretending that I worked there and walked with purpose straight into the shoe department.

Suddenly, I could hear Neiman Marcus’ massive junkyard-style guard dogs barking, alerting the staff of an intruder. I couldn’t see them, but they were close…so close. I stood frozen with a beautiful shoe in my hand.

My eyes fluttered open to see Stella standing on my pillow, barking at me to wake up.

For some reason, I’m exhausted today.

Not a vicious junkyard-style guard dog.