Seismology

It was the most benign of moments. We were standing in the laundry room. I was folding Dave’s boxer shorts, trying to talk to him over the competitive interruptions of Gwen, who is evidently in the throes of an Electra Complex. Seriously, can I have a conversation with my husband without you honing in, you…you…little Harpy?

Yes, that is basically the exact thought that ran through my brain as I stood there folding my husband’s underwear, competing with my six-year-old daughter for his attention. Then a low rumbling sound interrupted us all, along with a series of slow, rolling shakes and flickering lights.

Dave and I froze and stared at one another, silently trying to decipher the source of that faint thunderous sound and tremors moving our house. My mind quickly ran through a list possible explanations. Train? No, we’ve moved from the houses situated near commuter trains. Boiler exploding? Holy shit, I hope not!

“Is that an earthquake?!” Dave asked.

“Holy shit, I think it is!” I responded.

Gwen, who was standing between us, immediately began shrieking. Her eyes widened with terror.

“It’s okay, Gwen,” I said, instantly sorry we’d forgotten she was listening to our every word.

“I don’t want to die!” She screamed. “We’re all gonna die!”

Rather than running to David, she ran to me and jumped up, demanding to be held. As soon as I picked her up, her arms locked around my neck, almost completely cutting off my air supply. She continued emitting a series of hysterical screeching noises in my right ear, which promptly began ringing.

Despite her terror, I was slightly annoyed. I know, what kind of mother exhibits annoyance at a moment like that?

Me.

And I’m admitting it to the world at large – to my tens of readers. I am the type of mother who feels annoyed when faced with the possibility of temporary hearing loss and suffocation.

Mostly, as I stood there turning blue, I recalled that time last year when Dave treated the kids to a viewing of 2012. Don’t you remember? It was that John Cusack movie that tried to profit on the public’s fear of the apocalypse. If not, trust me, you didn’t miss much.

Well, that movie was rated PG-13. Dave rented it a year ago yet, Gwen only recently got over the phobia that developed after watching it. To help her work through that intense fear of earthquakes and general world destruction, we told her earthquakes never happen in Maine. Not ever.

We’re so fucking smart.

Last night, Mother Earth demonstrated that we are, in fact, a couple of morons. An earthquake centered just about five miles from our house sent us this message and it was delivered via a good shaking and some deep rumbles.

“You lied to me,” Gwen sobbed into my neck. “You said there were no earthquakes in Maine.”

Oh, the guilt of a mother is a real mother

I’m a writer, not a seismologist for Christ sake. Granted, I knew I was making a bit of gamble when I told Gwen Maine never has earthquakes. At the time, that little voice in my head actually said, “Oh, you’re going to regret that someday, stupid!”

Now, I usually pay attention to that voice but last year I truly believed the chances of a 4.0 earthquake occurring in Maine were slim. By west coast standards, our earthquake was pitiful. I know this. You know this. Gwen did not know this.

Gwen’s frame of reference for earthquakes involved gaping, man-eating cracks in the earth. She was expecting hot magma, death, and destruction. She was waiting for that moment when we’d plunge to the depths of…of… I don’t know, Hell? And what did Dave and I do? Did we run like the guy in the movie, protectively sweeping his children into his arms whilst dodging explosions and fissures? No. We stood in the laundry room staring at one another like a couple of dopes and holding onto underwear.

It’s not difficult to put yourself in the shoes of a six-year-old and know the extent of her terror when you’re writing a memoir using your own six-year-old voice. When, on a daily basis, you…I, relive the fear and confusion of my six-year-old self. When I recall that break in trust – that moment when I realized my parents were human and maybe weren’t the smartest, or strongest or most beautiful two people in the world – that parents are sometimes wrong.

And so I was wrong.

Last night Mother Earth gave me a not-so-subtle reminder that in the future, maybe I should take a slightly less lazy approach to quelling my daughter’s fears. Like, maybe I should have explained fault lines and cited statistics and discussed tectonic plate shifts with my then five-year-old. But I didn’t. Instead, I looked at her, sighed, and then took the easy route. I soothed her fears with a know-it-all statement about earthquakes never happening in Maine and, a year later wound up being choked, rendered deaf in my right ear and eating my words.

Today, I discussed tectonic plate shifts, fault lines and whatever basic seismology is available to me via the internet. Overboard? Maybe, but Gwen lost a little bit of trust in us last night. Education is the best way to combat fear, right? My goal is to rebuild her trust and let her know that we were as surprised by those tremors as she was.

Gwen is better today. She’s interested in the kid-friendly earthquake information I’ve been reading with her. Her nerves are no longer raw.

Now, let’s just pray that Frankenstein doesn’t appear.

The Great Plague of February 2012

This post was written several weeks ago in the midst of  the month from Hell. I will now refer to February 2012 as the Lost Month. The month of the plague…and laundry…and no writing. Not at all. It was written in haste and forgotten. This should explain my lengthy absence from No. 7.

Sad, sick baby...

By 11:00 a.m. last Sunday, Dave and I were equally annoyed with Kate. To the point where I actually said, “No, seriously. If that kid doesn’t stop whining in the next five minutes I am going to run from this house screaming and never come back. Fucking NEVER.”

We were hiding in the pantry, quietly performing one of our “What I wish I could say to Kate/Joe/Gwen” sessions. As in, Dave and I hunkering into the dark recesses of a tiny room and saying things like, “”Why don’t you quit  being such a douchebag, Kate and say that in English.” Clearly we would never dream of saying horrible things like this directly to our children. But in those tense moments – say, hour number seven of incessant whining – we have found this to be an effective method of blowing off steam. We say horrible, awful things to our children then snort and giggle at the mere thought. This is not the type of relaxation method one finds in crunchy new age parenting books but it works for us. Our whispered tirades make us feel good. (Forward all hate mail to narragansettno7 at yahoo dot com then move on to a blog that gives tutorials about kitty shaped tuna sandwiches.)

Well, Kate threw up precisely five minutes after I declared that I was going high-tail it out the front door and run down the road like my hair was on fire.

And yes, I immediately felt like the world’s most horrible mother.

I heard the unmistakable sound of gurgled heaving and spun around to determine the source.

The sounds were emanating from Kate’s tiny body, parked high up on one of the stools at the kitchen island. She’d been noshing on hommus and baby carrots.

After the second it took to locate the source of pre-vomit gagging noises, Dave and I lunged across the room and looked down upon Kate with a mixture of horror and parental concern. I wanted to pick her up and hold her but simultaneously felt a wave of disgust for what was about to happen. A quick glance at Dave’s face told me I wasn’t alone. The grimace he was wearing made his feelings completely obvious. A strange mixture of oh, my poor little girl…oh, God this is going to be so nasty. He stooped and cupped his hand under her chin just as the carrots and hommus reappeared. With Jedi-like precision, he caught and held onto the contents of Kate’s stomach.

Again, I just stood by like a useless lump and watched in horror. Of course, at times I interjected with what I imagined were motherly sounding sentiments. “Oh, you poor little baby,” and “Jesus, how the hell does a kid that size have so much in her stomach?!”

I’m a good mother. Right?

Dave took the other two kids off to a birthday party and I stayed home with my little puking princess. We cuddled together on a bed swathed in giant beach towels and watched Calliou. I hugged her and tried to ignore the pungent odor wafting from her hair. She sucked her fingers and barfed for a few hours before falling asleep.

Before we knew it, Tuesday came. And so did Dave’s bout with the bug.

Then along came Wednesday and in the last minutes of the day – the very seconds before the midnight hour – Gwen came in and stood at my beside complaining that her tummy hurt. As she made this declaration and her lip quivered, the purple colored fruit roll-up she snacked on after dinner introduced itself to my bed. With a change of the sheets, clothes and the procurement of the barf bucket (master bath garbage can) Gwen spent the next four hours barfing while I held her hair.

To keep myself awake, I spent hours on Pinterest. While Gwen puked I pinned recipe upon recipe and got hungrier and hungrier.

And now I know. I know there’s something wrong with me.

I have a strong stomach. Back in my law firm days, I was privy to some highly gory photographs courtesy of personal injury cases and medical malpractice claims. I was the person who was able to look through and document a set of photos while launching into a chicken sandwich. When the others whined about nausea after viewing  appendages that had been launched through a wood chipper, I was able to nosh on a slice of New York’s best pizza pie.

So, it was nearing 4:00 a.m., Gwen was reduced to dry heaves and I was drooling over someone’s recently pinned buffalo chicken pasta when I heard Joe’s feet hit the floor. I could tell he was running and then I heard the unmistakable sounds of…well…you know.

Since I was already wide awake and Gwen was winding down, I calmly walked downstairs to fetch another barf bowl then lined Joe’s bed with a beach towel and turned  his area rug back. I climbed in beside him and I was thankful that we bought the bunk bed will a full-sized mattress on bottom. I rubbed his back when needed and continued on my quest for comfort food via iPad and Pinterest.

I was resigned to the fact that I’d be the next person to fall. I’d been breathing the fumes for hours. I’d washed my hands 9,000 times but really, who was I kidding?

Well, it’s 5:51 p.m. on Friday and I have not yet succumbed. In fact, last night I was so famished that I made myself a giant salad and a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar, tomato and bacon and ate it while my husband looked on in disgust.

 

Potty (Mouth) Update

Gwen is potty training Kate.

That’s right, my daughter who just turned 5 yesterday afternoon is teaching my 2 1/2 year old how to use the can. I have to hand it to her, she’s doing one heck of a good job!

I’ve tried but Kate hates everyone except Gwen. I think that’s because Gwen is the only one who still tolerates her foul-mouthed tirades. Gwen is such a nice little girl – a natural teacher.

Last weekend we bought Kate a potty seat because she “HATES potties!” I’ve been carefully suggesting that she might like to poop on the potty for a few weeks now, but she has made her stance on the Baby Bjorn potty clear. Mostly, by hurling it across the bathroom and screaming, “NO! I HATE POTTIES!” Notice I used the word “hurling” so that you would understand why I would “carefully” suggest using the potty.

She’s a dream…and not a good one, if you catch my drift.

Since we happened to be in Toys R Us on Saturday, I thought I’d let Kate pick out her own potty seat. You know, to give her a little bit of ownership over the location of her bowel movements. There were three choices. Elmo, Dora and Disney Princesses. She hated all of them.

“I HATE POTTY SEATS!” She screamed. Except it sounded like this: I HATE POTTY THEATS!

“I want this one.” She started patting a Baby Bjorn potty exactly like the one we have at home.

“We already have that potty Kate.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I HATE POTTIES!”

I’m beginning to think she might have some type of personality disorder.

Dave and I exhaled at each other and I briefly fantasized about hanging her on a fixture in the baby section. Somehow, I’m fairly sure that most folks aren’t in the market for a whacked-out girl baby that screams profanity-laced hate diatribes. I imagine that she’d be fast-tracked to the clearance bins and then just sit there for a while getting dusty. And screaming…and cursing.

“Fine,” I said, taking a stance, “I’ll pick one for you.” I chucked the Disney Princess potty sit into the cart.

“I HATE YOU!”

“Who’s Mommy’s sweet little pumpkin?”

Insert more screaming here.

Yesterday I was putting the final touches on the cream cheese and jelly sandwiches when Gwen ran into the kitchen to tell me that Kate had just peed on the potty. Joe and I looked at one another hopefully then ran to the bathroom to find Kate wiping herself with piece toilet paper lint and her fingers.

“Yay! Katie you peed on the potty!”

“No. You ahhh-sole, mommy.”

“Don’t call my mommy an asshole!” Gwen defended.

You’re wondering how she learned to say asshole, aren’t you? Well, it all started when we were in the minivan driving to Toys R Us. Seriously, here’s how it went down…

Kate was babbling and annoying Joe who desperately wanted “a quiet ride” despite the fact that there were four other people in the car. (Because I forgot to give him his ADHD medication and the noise was causing him to flip out.) The more Kate babbled, the more annoyed he became. The more annoyed he became, the more Kate babbled and it continued on like that for at least 8 miles. If you haven’t experienced 8 miles (that’s 12.87 km in case you were curious) of a completely idiotic argument between a two year old and a seven year old, you’ve escaped a tiny corner of hell. True story.

At some point, Joe attempted to pull out the big guns and get Kate into serious trouble, thus forcing her into a state of silence. “Kate just called me an asshole!”

“No she didn’t.”

“I’m serious. She called me an asshole.”

“Ahh-sole. Ahh-sole. Ahh-sole.”

“Now she’s saying, asshole Joe!”

“You ahh-sole, mommy.”

So there you have it. Joe taught Kate to say asshole.
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Roundabout Field Trip

Gwen’s preschool had a field trip today to a place called Ferry Beach. We were surprisingly kind of organized for an outing scheduled at nine o’clock in the morning. I’d packed up the beach toys, towels, a change of clothes for each girl, bug spray, sunblock, yadda yadda… it was all good, except that the woman who can drive around Manhattan with no real issues – the same woman who figured out that crazy maze of streets in downtown Boston, couldn’t find her way to a state park in southern Maine. In case you wondered, I’m talking about me.

In my defense, Mapquest told me where to go “at the second roundabout.” Well, the second roundabout never materialized and, thanks to the fact that Grandma and I were yapping away in the front seat, we missed the road that we were supposed to turn onto at the roundabout that doesn’t exist. Fast forward 20 minutes and we rolled into some town I’d never heard of. We were nowhere near a beach though, we did happen to pass a sign for Lake Bunganut which resulted in a thoroughly immature series of fictitiously named lakes such as, Lake Bunghole…home of Camp Dingleberry, etc.

We turned around and made our way back toward that invisible roundabout but since we were now thirty minutes late for the state park and not really feeling it anymore, I came up with another plan. The morning’s thick fog was still burning off and Kate was passed out in her car seat after a few minutes of intense finger sucking. I looked in the rearview mirror and watched my little Gwennie’s sullen face. It was clear that I’d disappointed her with my failure to find the roundabout. I saw that she was trying to maintain a strong front, but her little mouth always reveals her true emotion. Her lips had settled into a straight line, erasing that happy upward curve that they normally wear. She met my gaze and, for my benefit, feigned a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. Suddenly, I was the world’s worst mother.

Hey Cookie, why don’t we have a special day out?

Like what?

Why don’t we go take a ride on that train you’ve been looking at in the mall?

Personally, I don’t get the attraction but she’s been begging for weeks.

OKAY!

On our way back toward the Maine Mall, we spotted a place I’ve been wanting to explore. It’s full of architectural salvage and, frankly, resembles a glorified junkyard. Grandma and I were intrigued. Gwen was intrigued. We banged a Uie and hit that glorified junkyard hard. Have you ever watched American Pickers? It was kind of like that. We picked and rummaged and explored and Gwen was into it. Really. She found a giant life-sized Bugs Bunny, a decapitated mannequin head, two vintage gumball machines, a fantastic chair and a soapstone sink.

Right about now you’re probably thinking, what a terrible mother! She missed the field trip and brought the kid to a junk yard? Yeah. I did.

I also drove her to Snip-It’s, the Disney World of children’s hair salons  (in case you didn’t know), where three inches were trimmed from her long hair as she watched cartoons, blew bubbles and snarfed down copious amounts of Dum-Dum Pops.

Then we went for a ride around the mall on a motorized choo-choo train. That’s right. I drove to the Maine Mall and hunted down a parking space for the sole purpose of walking inside to pay $6 for a ride down the main corridor of the mall. Like a giant goofball I stuffed myself into a bright yellow train car and was pulled around the mall with Gwen and her beaming smile. Teenage girls laughed at me but I didn’t care. Cookie sat on the seat across from me and, with our our knees touching, she held my hand. She told me that I was the best mommy in the world and, with that declaration, she bought herself a pre-lunch Boston Cream donut followed by an afternoon in the sprinkler. Because that’s where the invisible roundabout took us.

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.

I Call Bull$hit!

I’m on tear this week. I don’t know what has come over me. I really do enjoy looking at other people’s blogs. I tend to linger over the blogs where moms do crafts with their children. Don’t they all look beautiful? In their photos taken with a DSLR sumpin sumpin, the children are smiling and laughing. They are giddily covered in glue and sparkles. I look at those posts and I beat myself up because I am most definitely not one of those mommies.

Not me

I am occasionally inspired to do something crafty, but far too often my real personality emerges from the depths of my Zoloft-induced calm. It’s all smoke and mirrors, believe me. Glue drips on the floor, Kate eats a handful of sparkles, a glass of milk spills, and someone paints the dog. I tell myself that those perfect, happy mommies would snap photos of these mishaps and make it all look so fun. I have a theory that they do these things so shitty mommies like me can log on and wallow in our shittiness. (Alternatively, maybe I’m just paranoid.) Whatever the case may be, I am not capable of being that mommy. I’ve tried. Sure, I’ve experienced a random Perfect Mommy day every now and again, but mostly those days are elusive for people like me. I don’t want craft paint on my freshly painted walls. I don’t want to have to give the dog an unscheduled bath. I don’t want to wipe Kate’s butt, see the forgotten sparkles in her poo and momentarily panic that she has contracted some kind of rare twinkling shit disease. I… don’t… want…that.

I think I’m coming unhinged. I can’t tell you the last time that David and I were really alone together, or if we were alone, that I didn’t worry that all I had to talk about was the children. I don’t want to be that wife. Lately, I fear that David and I are losing each other as we traverse the perils of parenthood. I am turning into a harpy.

courtesy Google image search

Yesterday I spent the day nursing the mother of all sinus headaches. The kind of headache that makes me press too hard on my right temple and cheek bone to relieve the pain. He came home with medicine and sent me to bed. He played with the children and tucked them in. He’s incredible. We sleep next to each other. He cooks breakfast. I cook dinner. We watch television and talk about the kids, his job and my writing. We go to bed. We are never alone.

Last night, under David’s watch, Kate took her poo-filled diaper off and slid her dirty hiney across the couch. I heard him discovering the skid mark and mentally noted that tomorrow I would need to wash the slipcover. Tomorrow I will do this mothering, housework, grocery shopping ‘thing’ all over again. And again the day after that. I will become more and more unappealing, uninteresting, old, and cynical. I will wash the slipcover, I will blog about it and make it look fun. I will hope that when the dust settles, that my husband and I are still able to make one another laugh those fantastic laughs we used to share.

CREDIT: Lange, Dorothea, photographer. “Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California,” February-March 1936. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-DIG-fsa-8b29516.

I drank a glass of wine and took NyQuil Sinus PM. Within a half hour, my head was deliciously floating somewhere near the ceiling and I thought, Jesus…this is great. I remembered that alcoholism is hereditary. I thought of those stories of mommies who hide their vodka in the laundry room. I remembered bad things and drunken grown-ups who seemed huge, out of control and scary. I went to sleep and dreamed of Florida.

Today I will go to the grocery store and I will do the laundry. I’ll make dinner in my new crockpot and I will accept that it’s okay to feel lost every now and then. I think some of those perfect mommies might feel that way too sometimes, they just don’t write about it.

Hey, if you like No. 7…Thanks! That’s enough. Thanks for reading.

It’s a Whittle Car

Following the school bully debacle, David decided that Joe might like to get involved with Cub Scouts. Sure, it’s mid-way through the year but there are several boys who Joe knows in his new pack and frankly, there has to be something this kid is into besides Super Mario and toenail biting binges.

This weekend is the big Pinewood Derby. Joe has been to exactly one Cub Scouts meeting and we’re so totally clueless as to what the whole thing entails. How un-American of David and me, right? I mean, how in the world have we made it to the ripe old age of (not going to say) without ever having participated in a Pinewood Derby race? I blame David. He’s the one born to do things like this…no wait, I blame my in-laws for not exposing my husband to the world of Cub Scouts and the fine art of pinewood derby car engineering. Okay, not really. I actually thoroughly enjoy my in-laws and their son was busy doing things like soccer and hockey and waterskiing and skiing and being chased by the ladies.

Joe, on the other hand, is still entirely innocent about the ladies and he is not interested in soccer. He made this clear last fall when beckoned David to him with his finger at a game and loudly whispered, “I HATE SOCCER!” in David’s ear. Okay, then…point taken.

The kid likes to run and bike. He wants to learn how to surf this summer. If he sticks to those pursuits, someday he’ll be radical. Hell, he might even possess tiger blood and some goddesses. (We’ll keep the rampant drug use, mixed with batshit crazy out the mix.) For now, he could use some social skills to go with his ADHD so, Viola! Cub Scouts. He likes it. He had fun helping (watching) me build his derby car. He sanded the right rear bumper for about 5 minutes and used a normally forbidden black Sharpie to write his number of choice on the car. He’s with David as I type, weighing the car, sanding axles and polishing wheels… the graphite lubricant is waiting.

Until yesterday, I had no idea that this entire process existed.

We picked the car up last weekend. It was a block of wood, some nails and four plastic tires. Huh…

It sat on the counter untouched for an entire week as Race Day quickly approached. I thought the whole idea was that the boys would ensconce themselves in the workshop with man-tools and hash out a design together. The block of wood would gradually take shape and become a race car through Joe’s hard work and imagination. He’d feel pride of ownership and a bit of reward for his hard work and perseverance.

I walked past that block of wood and it began speaking to me. Well, aren’t you a shitty parent.

It’s not my job. I’m the mommy.

You know… the other blocks of wood are almost done. Joe isn’t getting anything out of this experience and how, by the way, is he going to learn to commit to a project or club or relationship if you don’t turn me into a car?

I sat down with the block of wood and a cup of coffee. Oh God, you’re right Block of Wood… we’re not teaching him the right lessons. Where did we go wrong? No wonder the kid has the attention span of a flea…it’s my fault entirely!

Do you know me? I mean personally know me? No? Well, let me tell you that watching that block of wood languish on the counter was killing me. I thought, surely that thing should have some sort of shape by now. A few more days went by and David put some markings on it and put it back down. I just couldn’t help myself. We were three days from Race Day and my need to take control won. I Googled pinewood derby cars and realized how much work needed to be done and it needed to be done immediately!

I rifled through David’s workshop, located a hacksaw and lopped the front end off. Then I got busy whittling. Using one of my beloved (and très expensive) paring knives, the hacksaw and some sandpaper, I spent the better part of my Thursday sawing and whittling a semi-lame car out of a block of pine. No, it’s not fantastic – I agree, but at least the car was on its way and could be painted and race-worthy in time for Saturday morning.

Joe wanted his car to be red. Done.

Joe wanted flames and the number to be ‘909’. Done buddy, and I like your unintentional nod to The Beatles.

My baby says she’s the one
After nine-o-nine
I said move over honey,
I’m traveling on that line

Good luck, little guy!

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Tangled

As a mother, there are some experiences that just aren’t cool. Children have habit of saying the worst things at the most inappropriate of times. For example, when sitting in a dark and quiet movie theater watching Tangled, don’t announce to the masses that the villainess’ rant “sounds just like you mommy!” Really? Let’s rewind the day, honey.

I believe that upon awakening, you dined on a breakfast of French toast with strawberries and crème fraiche. Yes, that’s right. I whipped up a batch of crème fraiche for the ungrateful little b…. ummm, girl.

If I recall correctly, we then played “Beauty Salon” in my bathroom. It wasn’t especially fun or easy to paint each of your teeny, tiny fingernails and toes that appalling shade of green, but I did it anyway. Because I love you. I let you slap the hideous black nail polish over the entire end of each of my fingers. Exactly when, by the way, did skin and knuckles become part of a manicure? Perhaps you picked black because you find that color fitting for a crazy, selfish villainess like me?

We then retired to your bedroom where I was forced to sit through a painfully long and indecisive viewing of each of your tacky princess gowns. Let me tell you something, sister…a few of them are looking a little rough around the edges. You’d put Cinderella to shame in some of those rags you call gowns. Alas, we settled on the (busted) pink one. You know, the one with all the holes? You looked simply stunning.

We bid the rest of the family a fond farewell and lunched at that establishment of fine cuisine known as “Bumblebees”. For those of you who aren’t as smart and beautiful as the Princess, that’s Applebee’s-but don’t try to correct her or all hell will break loose. (Not really, but a theme seems to have developed here.)

Of course, we ordered your favorite, chicken nuggets and French fries. Far be it from me to criticize your developing palate, but really…aren’t you getting at all tired of processed chicken parts? I’m sorry the French fries were covered with bwack fings (black things). That’s called pepper and no, I don’t know why they put bwack fings on the fwies at Bumblebees.

I hope you understand that your loud comparison of me to the evil woman in Tangled was both humiliating and, well…funny. I have no idea why you got embarrassed and bent out of shape when the entire upper portion of the theater laughed for a painfully long amount of time in the wake of your declaration. Once the theater patrons stopped laughing at us, I was cool. The amused looks and statements of “ha ha, that was the funniest thing I ever heard,” from the audience when the lights came up was awesome. Truly awesome.

Mostly, it was just a good day with my funny little four year old girl.

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Total Failure

I am a horrible mother.

It happens every time…just when I begin feeling like an honest-to-goodness and compassionate mommy I slip up again. This morning, I flopped into a chair in the family room, still reeling from Kate’s contribution to Barf Fest 2010. Not once in my single-girl days did I anticipate I would one day willingly hold a puking toddler for five straight hours. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fun, but I happily held my sick little (stinky) Katie until she was done and sleeping peacefully on my (equally stinky) chest.

As a result of yesterday’s illness, exhaustion overrode my “filter” this morning. If I recall correctly, my filter malfunctioned at the precise moment that Gwen demanded to be carried from the couch to the kitchen so she could eat breakfast. I’ll admit it, I snapped. “That’s enough! You guys are adults now,” I yelled, “so act like one! Get up and walk into the kitchen by yourself!” As soon as I finished saying one of the most idiotic things I’ve said in my career as a mother, I turned to Dave, “Did I just tell them that they’re adults now?” Joe and Gwen sat quietly blinking at each other in surprise. Gwen looked bewildered. Dave laughed. Joe’s face brightened and I recognized the sheer joy coursing through his little brain courtesy of my idiotic declaration. His eyes widened and took on a dreamy far-off glaze. He was drinking in the realization that I had just provided him with carte blanche access to Grown Up Land. Dave said, “Joe, since you’re an adult now, go grab the car keys and head over to Starbucks. I’ll take a black coffee with a shot of espresso and Mom will have a venti latte.” He wasn’t done. “Kate, you have about six more months to shape up, we’ve had just about enough of this baby crap.” Kate gnawed on her bottle and slapped Stella across the face. I went back to bed in an attempt to recover my ‘good Mommy’ persona.

I’ll fess up and admit that there are times when I say the completely wrong thing to my children. Like the time Joe came home from preschool and dished, “[boy name] wore a princess costume and pink nail polish to school today.” He stood there looking positively freaked out, waiting for my response. Having really enjoyed several sociology classes in college involving gender studies, my reaction was an unexpected and disappointing, “Jesus. That’s weird.”

[boy name] is, of course, a boy and he was five-years-old at the time. So what if the kid regularly wore princess gowns to pre-school. It didn’t matter that he threw tantrums when he realized he wouldn’t get a girl goodie bag at birthday parties, right? This is how I should have reacted, so I immediately reigned myself in and smoothed over my verbal faux pas by saying, “I mean, it’s weird because Halloween was over like three weeks ago…I guess he just really liked being a princess.” Dave and I made eye contact and winced a little. I was a bit disappointed in myself for that lapse in judgment. After all, at four and five years old a lot of children engage in gender-neutral play. It’s normal.

A few years ago, my niece was describing the odd relationship of a friend and her mother to my sister and me. As she described how stifled her friend felt, my sister appropriately nodded her head and pasted a sympathetic expression on her face. One that said, I’m listening to your story but I don’t judge someone else’s parenting style in front of my child. What was my reaction? Well, my mouth said, “Holy shit! Aren’t you glad you don’t live in that house?” and then I stuffed a cheese doodle into it. My sister choked on her coffee and quickly explained that perhaps that wasn’t the best and/or appropriate response. I saw her point. On the other hand, I knew that my niece thought something was odd too, so I went with it.

As long as I’m confessing my lapses in effective parenting and lack of a filter, I might as well talk about last summer’s mortifying incident involving the sales person from Invisible Fence. We had an appointment for 9:30 in the morning. With the well-meaning intention of maintaining our summer schedule, I requested an early appointment so we wouldn’t miss a beach day. I wrote the appointment on the calendar and….well, entirely forgot about it.

The morning of the scheduled appointment was atypically insane (meaning…far more insane than usual). Kate and I were returning to the kitchen following an especially traumatic diaper change and found Gwen attempting to fit a gallon of milk into a juice glass. Joe was standing next to the wide open patio door, staring at Scooby Doo in a zombie-like trance while Stella was clearly off wandering in the wild. Perhaps it was sleep deprivation or maybe I was just having an ‘off’ day . Whatever the reason, I lost it. I yelled really loudly at Joe, “Now you can go outside and find the dog while I clean up the milk!” I’m not sure what he was thinking in that moment, but Joe defiantly looked at me and said, “No.” I stood there dumbfounded and frozen. Joe looked oddly triumphant, but also like he might pee his pants in fear. Our stand-off ended when I lunged toward him and his six-year-old body responded with lightening speed. I’ll give him credit, his reflexes have improved and he has shaved a few seconds off of his top speed. He was out the patio door in a flash.

One of my finer moments of maternal tenderness captured on film

Right around the time that we were rounding the swing set and I was grabbing the back of Joe’s shirt to tackle him to the ground, the (forgotten) Invisible Fence lady pleasantly called, “Helllloooo?” She rounded the corner into our back yard as I stood and pulled Joe up with me. While I ordered him to his room, I spotted Kate, clad only in her diaper, running across the lawn with Stella in hot pursuit. Gwen was on the kitchen table mopping up milk with a solitary sopping napkin and noshing on a piece of bacon. The Invisible Fence lady stood staring, mouth agape before finally saying, “Ummmm…I just saw a baby running down the driveway.”

I smoothed my grass stained pajamas, pretended that my hair wasn’t exactly as I left it when I crawled out of bed and introduced myself to the woman who had witnessed my mothering skills at their worst. At least she hadn’t seen me sprinting barefoot across the lawn, trying to stiff-arm Joe….right? I was sure that she had seen and heard the WHOLE thing. As I shook her hand and invited her inside for coffee, Kate and Stella were finishing their lap around the house. I scooped Kate into my arms and called Stella, who thankfully came to me straight away. Ms. Invisible Fence stood planted to her spot on the lawn and said, “Wow. You could REALLY use an Invisible Fence.”

You think?

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