Archives for December 2011

Hot Off the Press!

My guest column has been published in The Portland Daily Sun! Feel free to click here to go check it out.

or here: Motherhood and the Evils of Alcohol

or click down there on that picture of me and my Grinch lips.

or click the spot …. just kidding!

I’m so thankful to my friend and fellow writer, Natalie Ladd. That’s her column hosting my words today. A big thanks to my friends and family who are sharing the article like crazy!!

A Mini Annie Leibovitz

I absolutely abhor having my picture taken. Mostly because I’m the most non-photogenic person in the world. It’s been that way for most of my life, but now that I have a few more years under my belt, it’s just ghastly. GHASTLY I tell you!

So this morning my friend sent me an e-mail saying, “Send me a headshot and a bio asap and we’ll run your column.”

Did I forget to tell you that my friend Natalie Ladd asked me to appear as this month’s guest columnist at the Portland Daily Sun?

Well, she did and I’ve been so insanely busy that I might have forgotten to gush about here at No. 7. I guess on some level I wondered if I’d submit my piece and they’d say something like, “Ummmm, yeah. This sucks, so… thanks but no thanks.”

Sheesh, as I write I realize that my self-esteem is horrible. So far I’ve called myself ghastly and my writing horrible.

Anyway. Natalie’s “send a headshot asap” threw me for a loop. It was early morning when I opened that message. The morning after I’d been blowing my nose all night, tossing and turning and mouth-breathing because my darling Gwen shared her germ filled mucosa. (Refer to the Heavenly post.)

Of course, since I sent my finished column to Natalie on Sunday and I hadn’t heard from her, I assumed it stunk and the paper was taking a pass. So I passed on Dave’s offer to perform a photo shoot. Nah, I won’t need a headshot…

Yeah.

So, with no one else available to snap my picture 2,456 times this morning, I asked Gwen. She’s five.

With enough spackle on my face to partially conceal the bags left over from a sleepless night, we proceeded with our attempts to capture that magical shot. Any shot where I didn’t resemble a scary, haggard witch.

Here’s some of my girl’s work. She really got into it and made me pose, move around the house and stand in different places. My little Annie Leibovitz…

 

Photo No. 1 - we've title it "Mug Shot"

I learned that Gwen, after seeing this horrible photograph, was ready to do whatever it took to take a beautiful picture of her Mommy. What she didn’t know was that she’d be snapping pictures all morning.

I'm fuh,..fuh...freezing!

I learned that Gwen is willing to brave cold temperature in the hope of capturing trees in the background. I was forbidden to wear my coat, ordered to sit on the tiny stone wall and required to say, “monkey farts” before each shot. Thankfully, she got cold after three horrible pictures and I was permitted to go back inside.

I learned that Gwen likes to do weird, artsy photography in natural light. Despite my protests that the sun was burning my eyes and probably enhancing those fine lines and wrinkles, she insisted that I “stand in the sun, Mommy or I’m not going to do this!”

I learned that it is difficult for five year olds to hold a camera straight thus causing at least 13 pictures showing partial face.

I learned that Gwen has a thing for posing people with their chin resting on a hand. I think this goes back to some professional portraits we had done last year. The photographer kept asking the kids to put their hands under their chins. I drew the line at getting on the floor to lay on my stomach with my feet up in the air. I  also refused to do that one where she wanted me to lay my face on my hands and close my eyes. I’m not sure what she was going for with that… Maybe a faux-candid where Mommy passed out whilst praying to the Gods of Botox?

I learned that Gwen didn’t care that my nose was dripping and I needed to pee. Just before she snapped this shot, she ordered me to “sit in that chair until I tell you I am finished taking your picture. Don’t you want to be famous?”

I learned that my husband thinks I sometimes have “Grinch lips”. He took one look at this picture and started singing…You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch… Nice, right? I mean…those are my lips you fool! You’ve been staring at them for 10 years and now you tell me I have Grinch lips.

Douche.

I learned that grabbing the camera and saying, “Give me that! Maybe I can take a good picture of myself” was just plain old stupid because Gwennie did a pretty good job!

Mostly, I learned that next time someone says they need a headshot STAT, I’m hiring a photographer…and a makeup artist.

Heavenly

Occasionally, my husband has meetings in Manhattan that require an overnight stay. I’m not going to go on and on about how this makes me jealous. I won’t call him a jerk for callously stating his night in a mid-town hotel just “isn’t all that much fun” on his Facebook status. I won’t share the details about how I read that insensitive statement moments after my finger inadvertently slipped into a poo-filled diaper.

I just won’t.

But good Lord…I miss overnights in New York hotels.

I miss the days when I was comped rooms at the W or stayed at the Essex House just because I didn’t feel like hopping the train back to Westchester. Life was tough and those were the perks of the job.

I miss the silence.

I miss the Heavenly Bed.

Back when Westin first introduced the Heavenly Beds, Starwood Employees were able to buy the linens, down comforters, pillows…hell, we could buy the whole damn bed if we wanted to. I bought the comforter and the pillows. And they are heavenly, thank you.

courtesy of Westin at Home

 

So heavenly that three children were conceived under the downy cloak of heaven.

This morning I was fitfully sleeping beneath my Heavenly Bed comforter and thinking that it ain’t so heavenly anymore.

Gwen had been coughing at regular intervals for two hours and by 6:30 a.m., my right eye had begun to twitch. My head was pounding. The cat made her grand morning entrance, demanding I get up and fill her bowl so she could resume another day of compulsive eating.

I tiptoed into the hallway, fed the cat and peeked into Gwennie’s room. Her hair was fanned out on her pillow and her eyes were squished shut in a pathetic attempt to sleep.

“Psssst…Gwennie,” I whispered, trying to avoid rousing the wee beastie (Kate).

Gwen popped up, smiled and held her arms out for a hug. I picked her up and carried her to my Heavenly Bed, kissing her forehead along the way.

She hacked in my face three times. A light spray of germ-filled mucosa dappled my skin and probably infected me, but I didn’t care. I was too tired.

We snuggled into my bed and watched the news together. Gwennie sucked on a mini-melt cough strip and was uncharacteristically silent.

Except for the cough.

I stroked her hair and kissed her head. She hugged my arm and held my hand. Then, during a commercial break she turned her little face up to mine and spoke. Her voice was not unlike what I imagine Marge Simpson might sound like if she was five.

“Mommy, I don’t believe I can make it to school today. I feel like shit,” she rasped.

And so, my middle child – the one who never curses – was lovingly tucked beneath my Heavenly comforter with her head resting on two Heavenly pillows to watch Tinkerbell for the 346th time.

After I fluffed her pillows, I moved toward the door to get Joe ready for school. Something made me pause in the doorway to look back at her.

Suddenly, that bed looked heavenly again.

 

Some Guilt, a Flasher and Cookie Swaps

Preschool Parent Helper.

The very words fill me with a debilitating mixture of paralyzing dread and delight. I know, that’s confusing and slightly crazy sounding, but it’s true.

Ten years ago I would have been all sorts of excited to be the parent helper. I’d have bought in some kind of super-duper Martha Stewartish cupcakes or cookies with sprinklers and confetti bombs attached.

These days, we aren’t allowed to bring those kinds of snacks to school. We’re reduced to grapes, Cheerios and teensy cups of tepid tap water.

Sigh.

Any who… each month as my parent helper gig approaches, I fill with dread. The mere thought of three hours at the preschool reduces me to a frantic frenzied mass of anxiety. I get hung up on all the writing I need to finish, the books I need to read, and the deadlines I need to meet. For at least a few moments, it might even cross my mind that I’ll be wasting my precious writing time. I briefly resent noodle necklaces and doling out grapes to tiny tyrants, some of whom don’t like green grapes and they expect you to know they only eat red grapes, dammit!

Later, after I’ve finished thinking all of those selfish thoughts, I’m filled with remorse. I take a bath in a giant tub filled with guilt and maternal failure. I wallow in the stench of self-absorption and wonder what kind of mother gets all worked up about spending three hours at preschool? What kind of woman is so selfish that she’d dread three hours in the presence of her precious child and her burgeoning social set?

I’m told I’ll miss these years and I know I will. Really, I do. I already see glimpses of the Gwen who will be in high school in a few short years. She’ll balk at the thought of spending three hours in my presence. Her social life will hold an air of mystery. There will be secrets she won’t share with me anymore.

Sigh.

So on Parent Helper Day, when I find a Lilliputian-sized chair, sort through some blocks and immerse myself in their tiny wonderful world, I’m always so thrilled to be there. Seriously…and here’s why. Is there any other place on the planet that legally allows people to randomly pull down their pants to display the boo-boo on their privates? I don’t think so. You want to know the best part about that unabashed moment of sharing? It was that, at four years old, not a single one of those 13 kids raised an eyebrow. Hell, some of them didn’t even notice.

Thank goodness for preschool and the fantastic teachers who steer our children toward social norms. While I bit the inside of my cheek, drawing blood to avoid laughter, one of our teachers helped that kid understand that junk displays just aren’t acceptable at school. In her happy Mary Poppins voice, she hypnotized that boy and commanded him to pull up his drawers. I swear she did. She’s magical and thank goodness!

Who knows what would have happened if it weren’t for Miss Mary. Take the whole butterfly effect into account…had she not been there to intervene and I was the only ill-equipped adult in the vicinity, my laughter might have placed that kid at serious risk. He might have been destined for a future filled with flashing and let’s be honest, after the age of 5, that kind of stuff starts to get creepy.

Putting the flashing aside, my parent helper gig happened to fall on Cookie Swap day. The mommies all got together at a mommy’s house and swapped deliciousness while I was busy suppressing belly laughs as one of their kids pulled his drawers down in the middle of the classroom.

I was bummed to miss the Cookie Swap so I decided that I’d contribute anyway. I made these Martha Stewartish melted snowman cookies.

Okay, maybe they look more like something Martha Stewart would turn out if she was coming off a week long crack bender, but still… I tried.

Last year I’d have made them perfect. I would have made perfect sugar cookie dough, perfect royal icing and I’d have used all the right cake decorating tools to make my melted snowman perfectly perfect.

But then I started taking medication.

(No, seriously. I’m taking ADHD meds now and I’m way less psychotic about details than I’ve been for most of my life. It’s somewhat refreshing to not give that much of a shit what my snowmen cookies look like.)

So, last night I spent three hours making my melted snowman cookies because there’s still a little corner in my brain where the little psycho lady hides. She nagged, Make some cookies stupid or the other mommies will think you suck!

So I listened to her.

By 9:30, my eyes were burning and my hand hurt from squeezing tiny buttons, noses and scarves onto 36 snowmen. I simply stopped caring what the cookies looked like.

I let it go.

And when I sat in the preschool classroom with 13 little people, Kate and two magical teacher ladies, I laughed and I smiled and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

You Take The Good, You Take The Bad…

A few weeks ago, Dave and I met with a psychiatrist that works with Joe’s school. It was our first meeting. You know, kind of an informational session…these are our concerns…the pediatrician thinks it’s Asperger’s, the therapist thinks it’s social anxiety and there’s a two-year wait for the specialist that will eventually give us the real skinny.

Anywho… Joe has actually been doing much better. We recently switched his ADHD medication for a new one. No sleep issues and his appetite is better. Most importantly, there have been no psychotic and completely out of character mood swings. Just a little guy with a super busy brain who can now sit through six hours at school without major issues. It seems to me that his social anxiety has improved a bit too…which leads me to conclude that he might not actually have Asperger’s but hey, I’m no doctor.

So now that I’ve caught you up a bit on Joe’s state of affairs, let me tell you how the meeting with the school’s psychiatrist went.

It went well.

I think.

He asked if Joe had ever been subject to physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

No.

Though, there was that time I spanked him for biting Gwen’s cheek four years ago. Or that time last year he kept saying “piss” at school and the teacher called me repeatedly so I finally brushed a tiny red pepper flake on his tongue and then felt immediately guilty and still wonder if I’ve scarred him for life. But, no…no emotional or physical or sexual abuse…beside that red pepper flake.

I vaguely recall Blair from The Facts of Life being on the Today Show and defending Tabasco Sauce as discipline for children. As I watched that show, I also recall thinking, Jesus…that
Blair’s a real hard ass! I would have pegged Jo for that kind of abuse…her and her black leather jacket and motorcycle. She had a real chip on her shoulder when she showed up at Eastland.
Fast forward a couple of years and the memory of Blair and her spices filled my mind after good old soap failed to do the trick. I know, I suck. No need to send hateful mail.

There I go again, getting off the subject entirely.

So, the psychiatrist writes a note in his folder and moves on.

“Is there any history of alcoholism in the family?” he wondered, peering over the top of his bifocals.

Here’s where Dave and I looked at each other, snorted, laughed and said, “Uh…yeah! It’s rampant, man!”

Here’s also where the doctor chuckled along with us then stopped to look at us as if we were crazy. So we back-peddled.

“Uh, well…I don’t drink anymore and she’s…,” Dave says, waving a hand in my general direction.

Did my husband just tell this child psychiatrist that I’m a lush with a vague hand gesture?

My mouth hung open in astonishment. “Yeah, well a glass of wine at night…but JESUS, my parents… whoooo wheeee!”  (Sorry, parents but Dave started it and I needed to deflect so I made it appear that you are the ones who are complete lushes. I assume that one day, my children will throw me under the bus in a similar manner. I hope you understand. Then end.)

That's my wine...served up by my husband.

Minutes later, we were asked to fill out a form, the last two pages of which were very important. I checked off two pages of questions like, does your child pick his nose? Dude, he’s seven. Until last year, there was a boogar wall behind the bunk bed.

Does your child use tobacco? Dude, again… he’s seven.

But seriously.

I was trying to be serious.

You see, Dave and I have a habit of being serious, on our A-game, but little snips of our humor can’t help but squeak out. It’s like needing to fart to relieve some pressure. We can’t stop ourselves. For instance, when asked if Joe had ever been subjected to physical violence we adamantly replied no then Dave added, “Nothing abnormal…you know, ‘go to your room’ and
maybe some yelling…”

“Yeah, we try to hold off on electric shock and cattle prods unless things get really crazy,” I laughed. We all laughed. Then the shrink abruptly stopped laughing again and made a note in his file.

Why do these idiotic statements flow from my mouth like verbal vomit? I mean, really. School psychiatrists don’t normally appreciate the dry and twisted humor of parents attempting to help their child through the social minefield that is first grade. Do they?

Now, by the end of the meeting, Gwen and Kate were losing it. Did I mention that our sitter wasn’t available?

Actually, allow me to give credit where credit is due. Those two little girls sat quietly and patiently for an hour. They colored and played a game on the laptop. They were angels.

Yet, as is typical, in the last five minutes of conference room jail Kate lost her mind.

While we wrapped things up and said things like thank you and we’ll be in touch and yadda yadda…I tried to quiet Kate’s incessant repetitive whiny babbling question with an ill-timed, “Yes, sure Katie.” I really had no idea what she’d asked me. I fell prey to the mother of mothering mistakes – the inattentive, “Yes, honey” response. The one that comes out of our mouths while  we’re trying to engage in a serious discussion with someone like the cops or school shrinks.

We were still wrapping it up with the good doctor and, while Dave chatted with him, I turned to Kate and cheerfully asked, “So what should we do now?”

“I SAID WE GETTING DONUTS YOU KNUCKLEHEEEEAD!”

Between cattle prods, nose picking and knuckleheads, I’m pretty sure the shrink was left wondering what in the hell goes on at our house.

The good news? The authorities have not shown up.

Yet.

Who Cut Zee Cat’s Viskers?

Last weekend we spent approximately 10 minutes fervently interrogating our children.

If I had my druthers, I would have tied each of them to a chair and perhaps threatened the use of dental tools while a naked light bulb swung over their little heads. In my fantasy, David and I sound like Dr. Szell, our thick German accents threatening dental torture sans anesthesia unless…

You must tell us…who cut zee catz viskers?

Besides a vague reference to a movie filmed before my tens of readers were even born, this is 2011 and things like tying kids to chairs and dental torture are highly discouraged. Plus, I can only say a handful of things in German like, Mein geburstag ist am 15 Oktober or, Wo ist die toilette? and that old stand by, scheiße.

Frankly, it’s taken me quite a few days to write about the destruction that occured last weekend. I needed to put some space between myself and the havoc my children wreaked upon us, our pets and various pricey gadgets.

On Thanksgiving night, long after our guests had left for home and the turkey carcass was simmering, Joe was so hyper-focused involved in his game of Angry Birds that he couldn’t put the iPhone down. In fact, he tried to hold on to the iPhone as he took a leak and yes, the iPhone ended up in the toilet.

Somewhat coincidentally, the day before I’d read all about rice and cell-phones and batteries and sim cards, so I knew what to do. I know, weird right? It’s like I had some sort of premonition.

The iPhone was submerged in a bowl of rice promptly after Dave fished it out of the toilet. With fingers crossed, we waited 24 hours to see if the ol’ pee pee soaked phone could be saved.

It was.

But I’ll never touch it again.

Hours after we’d confirmed the effectiveness of rice for drying out cell phones, Joe spilled a glass of sparkling lemonade on the laptop. Evidently, he was so parched from his rousing game of Minecraft, his intense thirst led him to break the “NO FOOD OR DRINK NEAR THE COMPUTER” rule. Oh, but don’t worry. He partially wiped up that nasty spill with a paper towel, poured himself a fresh drink and continued playing…as the sugary lemonade decimated the innards of the computer.

This was happening right around the time that I picked up the cat and noticed that her ride-side whiskers had been trimmed. Not down to the nubs, mind you, just the tips so she’s okay. But still…seriously? After last summer’s round of safety scissor haircuts (Gwen’s is still growing out) you’d think they would understand that using the safety scissors to trim anything but paper was not cool.

NOT COOL!

Asking the children who trimmed Dirk’s whiskers became a convoluted inquisition. Gwen tearfully swears it was Kate, Kate cluelessly claims it was Joe and Joe flatly denies knowledge of anyone trimming the cat’s whiskers at all. I believe Joe.

Yet again, the safety scissors have been confiscated.

Later on Saturday afternoon, the computer began emitting a piercing series of beeping alarms. What followed was a long string of whispered curse words flowing from Dave’s mouth. Now, while I understood his frustration, I had to remind him that saying certain words, even in well-earned moment of anger, is a bad idea. Kate picks up on that stuff, you know.