Dear Pinterest,

Dear Pinterest,

I hereby write to inform you that you are full of shit.

That’s right. I said you are full of shit.

You suck people in with your pretty pictures. The alleged proof that somewhere in the world, there is a woman who has a perfect kitchen/home office/garden and a professional photographer on hand…I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this tirade.

In the late hours of the evening, when my family slumbers around me, I lay awake with my iPad, unable to log off because I might find just one more photograph of perfection. One that will change my world. I might stumble upon something like a photograph of a baby carrot perfectly carved into a minute totem pole, surrounded by tiny trees fashioned from organic broccoli and standing in fluffy piles mashed potatoes meant to resemble snow! Whew…deep breath.

In my state of exhaustion, you will lead me to believe that if I can carve tiny baby carrot totems, my children will be happier. That I will become a better mother and my artistic carrot carving abilities will be world-renowned.

Then I pass out with my face plastered against the iPad’s screen and dream of my shortcomings and failures as a woman.

Well, as I wiped drool off my iPad’s screen the other morning, I started thinking. I can’t help but notice the Pinterest-wide obsession with mud rooms. You know, coat racks, hooks, nooks, cubbies and shelves. Boot trays and tile. To-do lists and messages of love written on chalkboard walls to families so utterly loved that their mother has provided them with a perfectly organized room. One designed to deal with mud, but which according to  thousands of pinned photographs, never get muddy.

Also, at our house, the chalkboard wall tends to hold messages of power in the form of potty words. So, if you’re okay with your guests reading something like, “Mom is a big poo poo head” immediately upon entry into your home, paint away. Chalk it up, baby. Nothing relaxes a guest and makes them feel more at home than proof that their hostess is a big shithead.

courtesy of Pinterest

Please refer to Exhibit 1 (above.) Does anyone actually live at this house? Where’s all the crap?

Don’t be fooled. Those baskets will be filled with petrified grilled cheese sandwich crusts and unidentifiable masses of glue and glitter soaked in apple juice in no time at all. And that gorgeous hardwood floor? I’d like to see what it looks like right now. Right this minute. Because I’m willing to slap down a sizeable bet that they are neither shiny or clean. I’m thinking there might even be a pile of shoes spilling out of those pristine white cubbies.

courtesy of Pinterest

Exhibit 2. Oh… would you look at the lovely doors in that mudroom? I can only imagine the multitude of sins that women believe will be kept hidden behind them. The mess concealed. The crap kept secret. No one will ever know that a bunch of filthy little animals live in your house! Visitors will naturally assume that you are the worlds the most perfect housekeeper!

SIGH

Well, ladies. I am about to offer up a foul-tasting dose of reality. I am here to tell you that you shouldn’t believe the hype. Don’t let Pinterest fool you into believing that a perfectly designed mud room will solve all your problems. Don’t you think for even a second that your children (or husband) will gladly fling those cubby doors open to  hang up a coat. And those individual shoe drawers? Forget about it. The only person putting away muddy boots and soggy sneakers away will be you.  That’s right, sister. YOU.

Here is the ugly truth behind what actually goes on in a well-designed mudroom.

And here’s what it looks like when guests are coming over and I want to fake them out and make them think I am the world’s greatest housekeeper with a fantastic mud room.

 

My pictures are terrible, I know. I recently fired my professional photographer. My pictures were taken with an Android phone in a moment of motherly frustration for use in my crusade to reveal the truth behind motherhood. You see, I’d just re-entered the house after a rare hour of child-free time. I was relaxed and happy until I opened the door and promptly fell over the pile of boots and outerwear sitting beneath the wall of cabinets and shoe drawers. Yes, that is exactly one cabinet and one shoe drawer for each member of the family. Wouldn’t it be nice if each person actually used them?

Here’s how I deal the mess. I shut the door and walk away. Somehow, I highly doubt my grainy mudroom photos will be added to Pinterest.

Just walk away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More February Madness and Some Photographic Evidence

Despite the Great Plague of 2012 aka Hell Month, I decided to attack potty training with a vengeance. Maybe it was extreme fatigue after a week-long battle with barf…

Whatever it was that led to my visions of potty training grandeur, it was wrong. Just. So. Wrong.

In the end, on one of the rare days in February that didn’t include stomach bile, I decided that I was done with diapers. You heard me, I was finito. Caput. No mas diapers.

I remember it well. It was Friday. The Friday following a pukey all-nighter. (And sadly, not the kind of pukey all-nighters I enjoyed in my early twenties.)  No, this was viral and the only booze involved were those fancy cocktails I was perusing on Pinterest while my children hurled beside me in the dark hours of night.

I started that Friday by waging battle with my eyelids. I nearly resorted to prying them open and, because of my extreme fatigue, I decided that everyone was staying home. School was not an option. Mostly because I don’t believe in sharing germs (too late) and also because I was riding a roller coaster of fear. One moment I was joyous that I had seemingly escaped the bug and the next I was poised to sprint toward a bathroom. The slightest gurgle in my gastrointestinal region filled me with dread and threw me into a  certifiably neurotic cycle of waiting. Waiting for the puke to come. Obsessing over gas bubbles and appropriate levels of saliva production.

After approximately six hours of stopping in my tracks to declare, “Oh, this is it. I’m going to throw up,” Dave began calling me Fred Sanford, clutching at his heart and saying, “This is the big one!” (Yes, I just dated my husband with a reference to Sanford and Son. He’s so damn old, y’all.)

Since I had nothing much to do but for 27 loads of smelly laundry, it occurred to me that it was the perfect day to break Kate’s will. Yes, the Friday following a mass vomiting was suddenly the most opportune time to fight the good fight. I was certain I’d conquer her inconvenient and disgusting choice of poo receptacle.

Perhaps the hallucinations from extreme fatigue placed these grandiose plans at my feet. I didn’t care. I went with it. I embraced my sleepless state and rode the wave toward visions of a diaper-free household.

I made her take her diaper off, kindly ridiculing her about nearly being three. Then I gently taunted her with declarations that all the other girls are doing it. I issued horrifying warnings about preschool being unattainable for pants poopers. Finally, I reminded her that poo-poo beans are positively scrumptious and, with that thought planted in her head, Kate dropped trou.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t totally on board with the plan. Not at all. She was pissed off and put out that I’d dare to suggest such a foul thing as defecating in a potty. So much so, that she stripped naked in protest and proceeded to made herself look as pitiful as possible.

So I couldn’t resist taking a series of photos. You know, for future ammunition because it has become quite clear to David and I that our years with Kate are not going to be easy ones. As a result, I shall endeavor to accumulate an arsenal of mortifying photographs and videotapes to be used at a future date. But only if completely necessary. Say, for that weird boyfriend we’re going to hate but that Kate dates simply to piss us off. I’ll show him the horrors of toddler Kate and hopefully scare him off.

However, since my blog stats indicate that preverts abound, I will not post any full-frontals of my baby girl on the can. (Take that creepy people who arrive at No. 7 with searches like “mom wiped my bum.”)

For the record, Kate did not poop in the potty and late Friday evening, my cocky proclamations of health were squelched by my gurgling gastrointestinal tract.

 

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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.

 

Poo-Poo Beans

I’m tired. Not just physically tired but mentally. I am unofficially mentally exhausted.

People like Demi Moore can afford to check their mentally exhausted yet freakishly toned and surgically enhanced bodies into posh facilities to rest. They can melt down in private or under the care of a well- trained psychiatrist. One who is able to decipher the frozen expressions of those unable to move their botulinum toxin-filled faces.

The rich and famous check themselves into retreats in Malibu to examine their feelings, kick their habits, and lament about their man-child’s infidelities. Call me cynical but I imagine there are some massage treatments and gourmet meals included in the package. Someone makes the bed, cleans the can, and washes the dishes too.

Well around here we take a nap when we’re exhausted. Then we wake up, suck it up and confront that which exhausts us. For me the culprit is poo.

I am tired of poo. It’s been seven years. Seven straight years of tending to the fecal waste of other human beings.

Kate will turn three in February and so far Kate has shown no real interest in using the potty. She has gone through weeks where she successfully tinkles/wee-wees/pees/pee-pees (or whatever fun word I can think of to inspire her) on the potty. Then she decides that she’s over it, craps in her training pants and demands that we “wipe her butt.”

I’ll admit that I haven’t really pushed the subject lately. She’ll go when she’s ready right? After all, I highly doubt she’ll be crapping her pants at the junior prom. And if she is, who’s the freak? Not me.

One of the joys of having three children is that by the third, you’ve stopped comparing your child’s development to other kids. When competitive mommies ask, “Is she potty trained yet?” I nonchalantly say, “Nope, she’s still crapping her pants.” (I don’t really say it like that…or maybe I do.) Then I quietly enjoy the looks of confusion, horror, and pity that come my way. It’s usually newbies who get caught up in the whole “Junior crawled/walked/spoke/pooped at 2 months” rigamarole. Who the hell has time for that business?

Well, yesterday morning Kate conned me. She actually listened to my half-hearted instruction to go sit on the potty then minutes later, nonchalantly entered the room and announced that she’d pooped. Gwen and I stared at one another in stunned silence. Then we ran to look.

And there it was. A little nugget in the Baby Bjorn.

We danced and clapped and wooped it up and then I said, “What kind of present do you want, Kate?”

“I want poo-poo beans.” (That’s Kate-speak for M&M’s.)

After dropping Gwen off at preschool, I drove my tiniest child to the grocery store to buy those poo-poo beans. I also figured I’d get a little shopping done while I was at it. Halfway through the shop Kate asked, “Is dere a bafroom in dis store?”

“Yes, do you have to go?”

“Yes, but I go at home.”

So I cut the shop short, picked up a bag of poo-poo beans at the register and high-tailed it out of there so Kate could crap in the comfort of her own home.

In the car she happily popped poo-poo beans into her mouth after hollering out the color of each one. She laughed and sang and kicked her little feet. Oh, we had such fun!

Then she got home, decided to hide in her room and proceeded to poop in her pants. She conned me. She threw me that little nugget with the  sole intent of procuring a bag of poo-poo beans. Go ahead and doubt me, but I’m onto her game. She’s diabolical.

This morning I saw a clip on the news about Demi checking into a facility and immediately thought of myself. Mostly because I’m selfish like that. With my head still cradled in my pillow, I imagined the news anchor telling my version of the exhaustion tale…

Kelli, the world-famous mother of the foul-mouthed toddler, Kate, has checked herself into a rehab facility citing poo exhaustion. Sources say that Kelli has recently been seen popping poo-poo beans and chasing them with pinot grigio. Her publicist denies the reports.

A Different Kind of Post

This is one of those moments when I wish I was still blogging every day. That I was still actively involving myself in link-ups and writing prompts and commenting like crazy. It’s not that I don’t want to, I’m just concentrating on writing. I chose to turn around, retrace my steps and find the path I couldn’t follow all those years ago.

But I wish I was still out there speaking to all of you every day because I need your help. I’m hoping that those of you who visit No. 7 will take a moment to read about my friend Jessica.

Jessica is the mother of two beautiful little boys. Both boys are in preschool – the same preschool as Gwen. That’s where I met Jess.

You know how sometimes you meet someone and instantly feel goodness surrounding them? That’s what I got from Jess. But when we first met there was also a sense of sadness surrounding her that I couldn’t understand. Something was wrong. Back in September I didn’t know her well enough to ask why. I don’t like to pry.

It turns out Jessica’s best friend Karolina had passed away over the summer. She was young and vibrant and loved and she died quite suddenly from a brain aneurysm. I’ve learned this gradually.

For a while now Jessica has been having intense and painful headaches. She pushed her doctor to run tests to find the reason and I think her friend Karolina was guiding her to keep pushing for those tests.

Her doctor resisted at first but Jessica insisted. Jessica knew something wasn’t right. She was worried that maybe the headaches were a sign that she might have an aneurysm too.

Last week she found out she does not have an aneurysm.

She has a brain tumor.

She has two beautiful boys, a husband and friends who love her. Even those of us who haven’t known her for a terribly long time.

Maybe that’s because I spend time with her son at preschool. He’s sweet and thoughtful and like Jess – probably because of Jess – he’s the kind of person who makes you feel good.

I can’t begin to imagine the fear and stress that Jessica is experiencing as she waits for surgery on February 3rd. There are so many unknowns. She’s struggling with what, or how much, to tell her little boys. She’s busying herself with organizing her life so while she’s in the hospital her family will know what to do.

She’s started blogging about it. Writing through her fear, confusion and any other emotion that bubbles to the surface.

So the reason that I’m telling you all of this is because Jessica could use the support and encouragement of other women. Mothers, sisters, friends, aunts, cousins…strangers. Please rally around her and her family and do whatever you can. Say a prayer, write a note of encouragement at her blog and share the links I’ve posted below.

photo courtesy Photos by Colleen

For donations:  http://www.everribbon.com/ribbon/view/5066 

Jessica’s Blog: http://www.jheath.blog.com/

Thank you, friends.

BAD MOTHER: Why I Didn’t Really Miss Them

First, can I just tell you how incredibly lovely it was to spend 10 whole days away from my children? Go ahead, gasp and shake your head at my brazen statement. Jump to conclusions and assume I don’t love my family. Send me hate mail.

It won’t bother me.

I am relaxed.

Ten days in the company of talented writers does that to a person. Ten days talking about what I love – words, books, writers, craft – ahhhhh. That Stonecoast winter residency was a very expensive spa retreat for my soul.

Harraseekett Inn photo courtesy Kerri Dieffenwierth

It didn’t hurt that we were eating and sleeping at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport. I spend the first few days quietly humming, Heaven, I’m in Heaven…then realized that people were staring.

I didn’t wash a dish or make a bed for TEN entire days.  I was not required to cook, wipe hineys or perform booger removal. There were no fights to break up, no need to remind anyone to wash their junk and the scent of poo never wafted to my nose as other humans passed by.

 

Of course on some level (buried so deeply inside my ecstatic mind that it hardly registered) I missed my family. I love them dearly. Really. So I refrained from looking at too many pictures and I tried to avoid my husband’s Facebook updates while he documented his single parent experience.

It was my family who seemed riveted to his posts. You see, among my people there aren’t many men who would stay home for ten days and assume the role of Mr. Mom. I’m amused by the way my family eyeballs Dave with a mix of suspicion and skepticism, always wondering exactly what his deal is – if perhaps he’s slightly touched. 

After ten years, the women have grown to love him and the men…well, he confuses the shit out of them. They don’t come around much.

All I know is that I came home to a clean house, happy children and one amazing man.

I’ve been back for nearly a week now. I walked through the door suffering from exhaustion but strangely recharged. My state of post-residency fatigue made it an interesting week. Fatigue led me to do some stupid things and a blog post will follow, but for now I am simply glad to be home. Mostly because ten days away from my children actually caused them to miss me thus, they have been angels for the past week. Either that or ten kid-free days soothed my raw nerves.

Whatever…check back in a few days because this morning my right eye started to twitch and Kate called Joe an “ass.” Something tells me that life will be business as usual by Tuesday afternoon.

Distractions and Bad Hair Advice

Yesterday morning I sat on the couch perusing Etsy and watching Rachael Ray. I haven’t watched daytime television in months. Hell, I haven’t watched any television in months. Except for every single episode of the Vampire Diaries after discovering free episodes on Netflix two weeks ago. If you were wondering where I’ve been (humor me), my face was plastered to my iPad while I drooled over a hunky blood sucking monster named Damon.

You're welcome

But I was talking about how I was loafing around yesterday morning…

There I was, loafing around on the couch and wishing there was just one more episode of Vampire Diaries to watch before the big premiere on Thursday night.

The ridiculous part is, I have a lot of shit to do. On Friday I’m leaving the family for ten days to go to the winter residency for my MFA program. I have eleven eighteen-page manuscripts to critique. I also have readings to complete before faculty and graduate presentations. I’m almost done but sometimes my brain needs a break from all those words.

So there I was marveling at felted bunny rabbits on Etsy. Not that I’m really in the market for felted critters, but have you seen what these people can create?!

photo courtesy Sarasark Etsy Shop

courtesy SteviT Etsy Shop

I was also half listening the Rachael Ray’s monologue. When she started dishing about the best hairstyles of 2011, I thought, If Jennifer Aniston’s hair is mentioned in this segment, I’m gonna throw my slipper at that flat screen.

They didn’t talk about Friends or Jennifer’s “Rachel” cut but they did talk about Brooklyn Decker’s tousled bob. Or, as Kyan Douglas called it, a tossled bob.

So I was sucked in. My pixie cut has successfully grown out to the bob stage. If I can call my uncombed bob “tousled” and get away with it, I’m all for it!

Fast forward twenty minutes and I was standing in the bathroom following the How to Make Tousled Waves instructions of some broad on the internet. She told me that to get that tossled…no, I’m just going to stick with tousled… She said to get that tousled look, I should put mousse in my hair, braid 5 to 7 sections and twist into little buns. Then when dry, take the bun braids out and lightly shake my fingers through my hair.

And I listened to her.

I didn’t have mousse on hand so I grabbed some of Dave’s hair gel and proceeded to braid just like Smarty McHairdo told me to. Unfortunately, I also had no bobby pins so my buns were held in place with an insane combination of doggie hairclips and rainbow hued curly-cue bows from Gwen’s collection.

Hair Bow Instructions how to make hair bows twisted, layered, over the top

Photo Courtesy Birdsongbows Etsy Shop

I stepped back to admire my handiwork in the mirror and thought, How great is this? Now I’ll totally get through this awkward grow-out stage!

I was quite pleased with myself. I’d finally found a way to harness my waves and make them work for me.

As my bun braids dried, I swirled a makeup brush in my mineral makeup and buffed my face…swirl and buff…swirl and buff… I hollered, “Girls get your shoes and socks on! We’re leaving soon!”

And I meant it. We’d be leaving really soon because my hair was tousling. All by itself. In those braid buns that Smarty McHairdo told me to make.

What a frackin’ time saver!

Gwen walked into my bathroom, skidded to a stop and openly gawked at my head. “Ummmmm, Mom? What’d you do to your hair?”

Her face was filled with concern. No, maybe that was confusion…or fear. Whatever. She thought my lid looked crazy.

And it did.

So I pretended I was ready to go. I acted as if I fully intended to meander through the Maine Mall with 7 mini-bun braids wrapped in puppy dogs, curly bows and butterfly clips. Mostly, I do things like that because I like to torture my children and provide them with subject matter for future therapy sessions.

Gwen laughed then abruptly stopped and grew serious. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, why not? You don’t like it?” I turned and admired my head in the mirror.

“You look crazy. People are going to stare at you. They’ll probably laugh…and call you crazy. It’s not pretty, Mom. Not pretty at all.”

“Oh,” I said, feigning crippling disappointment. “What should I do then?”

“Take it out and brush it,” She said. Her tone inferring I’m a filthy animal who rarely brushes her hair.

“Okay,” I sighed.

Truthfully, I was looking forward to my tousled waves. My bob would rock those tousles like, like….a woman who’s completely bat-shit crazy.

Tousled waves my ass!

I looked like a freaky Muppet. No, I looked like a troll doll-Muppet hybrid.

Thank God for headbands. And a little girl who knows a crazy hairdo when she sees one.

**

I’ve opened my own Etsy shop and will be adding more goodies after January 16th!

 

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.