We all have something from our past that we are now experts on.  We lived through drug experimentation, sex, love, fights, depression, abuse, college, drinking, and corny-ass parents.  A friend of mine recently reminded me that one thing we did not live through: Social Media.  So, all of our learning experiences were (Thank you sweet baby Jesus) not recorded on Facebook, not immortalized on YouTube, not mass texted in picture form to the entire 3rd grade that one time you couldn’t get your culottes unbuttoned and you wet your pants.  Or tore your skirt in half shimmying up the swing set.  Or tried to make your homemade witch costume “sexy” by tucking the skirt in and pulling the top over your shoulders.  As useful as the internet is, it is full of faults.  It’s like the magazines in the grocery checkout line.  You can read a tribute to Johnny Cash, a story about a child hero from the most recent school shooting, and how a 600 lb. woman in Texas didn’t know she was pregnant when she gave birth to alien triplets.  Experience tells us these can’t ALL be true.  Hell, maybe none of it is true, which is the truly scary part.  But unfortunately, most kids (and several adults I know) aren’t able to tell the real from the fake.  They truly believe it can’t be on the internet if it isn’t true.  The magical interweb fact checkers would never let that pass.  As most kids have some access to the internet, which saves them the embarrassment of asking the old folks for clarification, they go and research on their own.  They can google anything and “learn” about it in an instant.  With pictures.  Horrible, horrible pictures.  A friend of mine said she was looking through her sons search history and found that he was looking for “boobies.”  At first this totally cracked me up.  Then I googled boobies, and it made me sad.  So many sites.  So many videos and pictures.  No grown man is looking for porn this way.  People specifically created, and named their sites to be found by, and appeal to children.  So, WTF do we do when we don’t want them to learn that way?!  It’s really not that hard:  You simply take away all computer communication, turn off your WIFI, homeschool them, do not allow them to have friends, move to rural Pennsylvania, become Amish, and buy an alpaca farm.

Or we do it the hard way: We talk to them.  The best part of this is that kids think we like to talk to them about this stuff.  They think we lie in wait, ambush them, and relish their embarrassment.  They will never know (for another 10-20 years) that we hate it more than they do.  I started drug and alcohol talks when Alex was about 8, Ryan was 5 and he listened too.  In my family there is a lot of addiction.  But, as my grandfather had a winery, and that was part of normal life for my mother’s side, we also have a lot of people who drink responsibly.  It was important to me that they know the difference very early.  That because I have a second glass of wine one night does not mean that I will be crawling into the house at 2 am covered with vomit, with a black eye.  I thought I was a pretty hip mom for starting that so young.  I would ask them if they had questions and answer anything they asked.  Because I’m awesome.  Also, because substance-wise, I was a good kid, so none of my stories are that shocking.  And compared to what is easily available to high school age (and younger) kids today, I was a complete square.

So!  Don’t do drugs.  Done and done.  (Sound of hands brushing off excess awesomeness).  No, there isn’t any other talks… I did stranger danger, drugs, alcohol, bullies… That’s it.  Sex…?  I don’t think… I mean, don’t they learn that in school…?  Because my GOD I don’t want to have that talk.  THEY don’t want to have that talk.  Can I please just wait a few years until they’re like 35 and then see if they have questions…?  No.  You can’t.  When I was a kid there was a specific protocol for learning about sex:  Your best friend’s older brother told you he knew what your parents did to have you, you screamed at him that he was a liar, went home crying, and didn’t look your parents in the eye for 3 years.  But we can’t count on that anymore.  We can’t assume they are going to learn in a (relatively) safe environment.  We have to be educated to what is out there.  And I am NOT telling you to start googling shit so you can see what they can possibly see.  DO NOT DO THAT.  So, I had the talk with my older son.  He’s 14, and I’m late having the talk.  Which is crazy to me, but it’s reality.  I wish it wasn’t.  But if I wish in one hand and shit in the other, I could still end up a grandmother before he graduates high school and I’d really rather not.  So, for any of you that know my son, you will not be surprised that I was the awkward one in the conversation.  I kept blowing out big sighs, dropping my head back on my shoulders and saying “fuuuuuuuuuuck I can’t believe I’m talking about this with you.” All of my awesomeness melted away.  As I’m not completely naïve, I know that I didn’t need to talk mechanics.  I thought about the information that was out there.  I thought about what he probably hears from his experienced peers.  We talked about abstinence.  We talked about protection.  We talked about respect.  Because when I googled respecting your partner, I found a rash of misogynist trash about women serving men.  Surprised?  No.  We talked about exes.  We talked about sexting, pictures, and how what is put out on the internet never truly goes away.

Before you give me props for doing this, I have to be honest: I hated every fucking second of it.  I asked him if he had questions and silently begged him NOT to have questions.  I am having a very hard time with my babies growing up.  I cannot get my mind around the fact that I can remember my sons first words “goodgirlbay” and “Na” (For our dogs Bailey and Gwen) like it was yesterday.  I can see his little impish face and single cocked eyebrow.  I can smell his baby scent of shampoo, graham crackers and sunshine.  And here I am telling him if he ever receives a naked picture, not to share it with friends.  But this isn’t the same world I grew up in.  So, I had the talk.  And I’ll have it again.  And probably again.  And I’ll probably cry to myself afterward.  And have a glass of wine (3).  And not be able to look him in the eye.  But I feel better for having done it.  I feel like communication is open.  I feel like I’m a safe person for him to go to.  I feel that if someday there are questions, or fears, MAYBE he will come to me.

**I started this blog over a year ago. I recently opened up my blog thinking it had been a few months since I wrote, only to find that it’s actually been 15. The last year has been kind of tough for me, and I guess I temporarily misplaced my sense of humor about the chaos.  Alex is now 16, which blows my mind.  But even a year later, he’s still my baby.


Clean Slate

I like a clean house.  I can actually feel my anxiety go up or down depending on my perception of how clean my house is.  I vacuum every day.  I clean before and after cooking.  I have actual laundry days.  I do NOT do knick-knacks and trinkets.  I do, however, do children and animals, so basically all of my efforts are in vain.  Its like standing at the bottom of a 12′ hole while it’s pouring rain and the walls are sloughing off.  Also there are 5 horses with their butts hanging over the hole.  Also I’m trying to keep it clean with a roll of off brand paper towels and a spork.  I don’t like to use the term OCD to describe my affinity, it’s so overused.  I can’t compare my little issue to someone who’s life is seriously effected by their illness.  I do not have a compulsion, I just don’t like to sit in someone else’s pee, which I don’t think is unreasonable.  I should say I didn’t think it was unreasonable before I had sons.  Because I now sit in someone else’s pee on a daily basis.  All this time I thought that NOT putting the seat back down was the laziest thing a boy could do in the bathroom. “You think that’s the laziest?!  Hold my beer!”  Says my sons, their friends, my husband’s GROWN ASS sons, and anyone else under 30, with a penis, that comes to my house (I drew the age line to leave my husband and my stepdaughter’s husband out as they are well trained.).  I have literally stood in the bathroom with both of my sons and 2 friends while I demanded to know who’s pee I just sat in.  And they look at me like I’M making things awkward!  Ok, so I could have pulled my pants up first, but again, sat in pee over here people!

A big part of parenting is helping your children to become worthwhile adults.  How you speak, how you treat people, how you clean a bathroom.  From talking to some friends I feel like I might be a little late to the game with the chores part.  My kids (or my master manipulators, as I refer to them in therapy) have somehow convinced me that they are incapable of even the simplest task.  I remember when Alex was about 10, and I asked him to get the clothes out of the dryer and toss them on my bed, then put the clothes in the washer into the dryer.  He looks up from the couch and says “If I do all that, what are you going to do all day…?”  When he got out of the hospital we had a long talk about his attitude.  Kidding.  But that was an eye opener for me.  They have no idea what it takes to run a household.  They have no idea how the food gets there, gets cooked, gets cleaned up.  They have no idea the work that it takes just to keep things (relatively) sane around here.  I have done all of us a disservice, which I’ve been working to remedy.

Years ago, when I worked at True Value Hardware, a middle aged man came in and asked for help picking out bathroom cleaners.  Turned out he needed everything that was required to clean a bathroom, and a description of what those things did.  When he asked me what to do with a toilet brush I was like, “Um…haven’t you cleaned a bathroom before…?”  No.  He had not. Ever. Cleaned a bathroom.  In retrospect I wish I had asked more questions, or maybe gotten pictures for some kind of “scared straight” pamphlet for my kids.  Like meth mouth only with black mold and soap scum.  Obviously cleaning isn’t really an innate ability.  I don’t remember being taught to clean, but I must have picked it up somehow.  The kids have no desire to “pick it up” on their own (literally or figuratively), so lessons are obviously in order.  The kids (all 3 of them) and I are opposites when it comes to our home decorating tastes.  I am a purger.  I do not like stuff.  I get rid of everything.  I’m really good at going through it though, I only get rid of really important stuff like half the time.  The kids are hoarders.  Maybe all kids are.  The boys keep everything.  Old toys, magazines, holey socks, candy wrappers, jeans that are 2 sizes too small.  I have to sneak in there and go through things in the dead of night.  I do that a couple times a year and usually walk out with 3 giant garbage bags filled with their precious belongings.  Which they have never noticed.  Never.  And I’ve been doing this since they were babies.  K also keeps everything.  But unlike the boys, each of those things has a story, a meaning and a memory.  She will dump out her stuffed animals and look frantically for “the lion, not that one, the one with some whiskers missing, my grandma gave it to me when I was little, she got me the lion and a chapstick and some ice cream.  I need to find it.”  Shit.  “Well, I may have given some of your things to kids that don’t have toys.  I have never seen you play with it so I thought it would be ok to get rid of some of your stuffed animals. A few.  To make room.  They’re gone though, some other kid who really loves them is playing with them right now.  Do NOT look in the trunk of my car….”  The problem with being the purger in a house full of hoarders is that they think you don’t value their stuff.  You would not believe the faces I get when I give away a stuffed animal that they won in a claw machine 3 years ago.  Or that my husband makes when I throw away his list of passwords.  Don’t even get me started on art projects.  I mean if my child creates something, on their own, that they are proud of, I will happily display it.  But do I need to display every piece of school work where they traced an uppercase Q in yellow?  Yes.  Yes, I do.  I cannot tell you the number of times I have had to use all of my acting talent to freak out when the magnets fail on the fridge and all of the stuff on the side falls in to the recycling bin.  Thank GOD they saw those before someone took the recycling out.

While I know that my kids aren’t going to just magically learn how to disinfect a toilet, I put these things off.  Because I am really, really bad at letting my kids make mistakes when I could just do it and not have to deal with the mistake, or the learning, or the mess.  It’s very hard for me to let go of things, and trust someone else with it.  I already KNOW how to do it, so just let me.  Until the next time I’m stomping around because no one does shit around here but me and no one will help me with anything and why don’t you people get up and clean something and what do you mean you don’t know how?!  Oh. As things come up I’m slowly teaching them to care for themselves.  Alex is actually a decent cook, K wants to help with everything, Ryan will probably always live in filth, but he’s pretty good at taking direction when I demand it.

For Christmas this year we got K a baby bunny.  Her name is Snowflake Snowangel Hale.  Or as we all call her: The bunny.  I haven’t had a lot of bunny experience, so I basically treat her like a cat, and google stuff I’m not sure of.  She’s very sweet and tame, and mostly housebroken.  She’s only 3 months old now, so I figure mostly is pretty good.  Thank God for hardwoods.  The bunny has added more responsibility and more chores to everyone’s plate, and I was REAL clear that it would be EVERYONE’S plate.  The occasional free flying rabbit raisins belong to everyone equally.  The other day I walked into the living room and Ryan is talking to K, “Well you just put water on it and the smell goes away…” immediate sinking feeling. “Ryan, what are you putting water on?”  “The bunny peed on the couch, so I was just putting water on it.” Confusion. “Why was the bunny on the couch?!  And water does NOT make it go away.”  Confusion some more. “But that’s what you do… You get it wet.”  And here we go with cleaning not being an innate ability.  I explained to him that I use water and SOAP to clean most messes.  And it doesn’t work on things like couches, and that’s why the bunny isn’t allowed on furniture.  At this point Ryan does a slow pan of the couch, and I notice many, many spots that I always thought were caused by the wear and tear of having 17 kids.  This explains so many things.  The streaky bathroom mirror.  The plastic cups that smell like chicken grease and slip right out of your hand when you get them from the cupboard.  The joke we make about Ryan washing with “onion soap.”  So the next time I have a job to do I’m going to slow down and teach him.  Step, by step.  “Not like that.  No.  What are you doing?  NOT WATER.  oh my god.  Stop, stop, stop! give me that.  Go ride a bike or something.”  Ok I really will teach him.  When he’s a little older, he’ll do it perfectly then.

Oh!  If anyone is interested: Super comfy couch for sale.  Lovingly broken in.  One cushion has extra squish.  Brown with darker brown and lighter brown areas. $50 OBO.

The (not so) Evil Stepmother

Parenting doesn’t come with a manual.  I think so many of us try really hard to do it the “right” way.  Without really knowing what the right way is.  Or if there is one.  And if there is no right way, is there a wrong way?  Well…Yes.  You can find out the wrong ways by contacting CPS for a list.  But for our purposes, I’m just going to tell you the right way.  I kid.  I have no idea what  I’m doing.  I met my husband when my kids were 12 and almost 9.  So while I would describe my basic parenting style as “floundering,” the boys are healthy, smart, and kind.  We had made it past the “constant vigilance” years of childhood and were entering an era of independence.  A time when I would no longer need to watch them continuously to make sure they didn’t stick a fork in an outlet.  I could sit back, have some time to myself, and listen for the sounds that meant one of them was going to stick a fork into his brother.

Then I met Dave, and we had a whirlwind romance that blew us right into marriage and a bigger family.  The best hasty decision I’ve ever made.  Dave’s daughter K was 3 at the time, almost 4.  So I knew I would be entering back into the “littles” stage, but I thought I could probably deal.  She thought I was great fun, and the boys were so good with her.  And it never changed.  The end.

Right.  So if parenting doesn’t come with a manual, step-parenting really doesn’t.  Because (if you take abuse out of the picture, which I generally do) there really isn’t a right way.  If you think you’re destined to be wrong with parenting choices, just try step-parenting.  THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER.  Are you giving your own children enough attention?  Are you showing your own children preferential treatment?  Are you showing the step-child preferential treatment to avoid showing your children preferential treatment?  I can’t make big parenting decisions, which is so hard because I have SO MANY opinions.  If I do something special with her am I taking away something from her mother?  If I feed her a new food will we get sued (no shit)?  One moment she’s running into my room in panties to do a booty dance and the next moment she is screaming that I saw her boobies when I helped her out of her shirt (This stuff especially keeps me up at night because:; what do you DO?!  I would tell my own kid to shut his pie hole and cover his boobies if it was such a big deal!  But again, I am on shaky stepmom ground). If I act like a mom I could confuse her.  If I act like a friend that’s not fair to my kids.  Oh my god I am basically a nanny that sleeps with her dad.  These are just some of the things I swish through my mind at 1 am while my husband snores happily by my side, because everything is perfect.

K is 6 1/2 now.  She is still sweet and kind.  She is brilliant (like maybe a genius, for real) and funny.  She is also a bossy, picky, snarky, nosy little monster.  She is full of curiosity and empty of filters.  She says exactly what is on her mind at that moment and damn the consequences.   She looks at me last week and says,  “I’m glad you’re not an evil stepmother.”  I waited for a second before responding, “Me too….what have you been watching…?”  “Oh nothing. I’ve just been thinking about it.  And I’m glad you’re not evil.” I responded honestly, “I’m glad you’re not evil either.” Because, personally I think (Outside of Disney) there is a way higher chance of evil girl children than evil step-mothers.  I resumed packing things that she had unceremoniously dumped in the back of my car; I put some empty containers in her backpack, then I had this container full of ranch from her lunch.  There was about 30 seconds that I couldn’t think of a logical place to put this (and verbalized my confusion) where it wouldn’t make a mess.  Then I said “Oh!  I’ll put it in one of the empties!” K says, totally deadpan, “I was thinking that but I wanted to give you a chance to figure it out for yourself.” I was flooded with mixed emotions.  On the one hand I wanted to laugh, on the other hand I wanted to kick her into the street.  I ended up laughing because she’s 6, and there were people around.  I’m not trying to start a sexist rant here, but having 2 boys, and now having a girl; they are very different animals.  They show love differently, they play with me differently, they misbehave differently.  When Ryan gets in trouble he stomps away, teary, slams a door, and typically yells something through it to make it even worse.  Alex tilts his head and sing songs “I love you too mom…” (Which makes me want to kick him).  When K gets in trouble she looks at you with huge, watery eyes and says “I’m sorry I’m bad. Do you still love me?” At which point my husband usually (he’s gotten better) falls all over himself to assuage this fear of hers.  While I’m over here like “Oh, I see you, manipulative little female.  I am you….”

So back to the fear, the mom guilt, and a bunch of “supposed tos.”  I’m supposed to love this child like my own.  I’m supposed to treat her like my own.  A couple of months ago I had an epiphany:  When I think about how I’m supposed to treat her, or feel about her, I’m thinking about that ideal that is in my head.  That “supposed to” that I torture myself with.  It’s not actually how I parent.  It’s not actually how I act.  I DO treat her like my own kids.  I hug her, I reward her, I tell her she’s awesome.  I help with homework, I assign chores, I force vegetables.  I demand respect and I take no shit.  I’m raising her.  I’m not her friend.  You can throw as many adjectives before my title as you want.  I’m a parent.  And she has 3.  And maybe I’m the only one who says sass is a no go.  And maybe I (was) the only one that made her say please.  But you know what, she listens.  She hears me. And I do love her like I do my own children.  Which is to say, completely, absolutely, and unconditionally.  But just like my children, I don’t like her all the time.  Does that make me bad?  Yeah probably.  But that’s real.  I love all 3 of them.  I would stand in front of a train for any of them (funny story about Dave saying this to Ryan and him being very confused about why Dave would say this, and Ryan wanted to assure him that he did not expect Dave to step in front of a train to prove that he loved him.), and at times I want to kick them into the street. There is a great quote by Anne Lammot, which I cannot find, so I’m going to butcher it:  She talks about new motherhood, and the unimaginable emotions that come with being a mother (or parent).  The idea that at one moment it is nearly painful to love another being this much, and the next moment you want to throw them out the window.  THAT is parenthood.  Natural, step, adopted, it doesn’t matter.  I have a dear friend that adopted 3 boys out of foster care.  3 unique stories of rough beginnings.  She is one of the most amazing mothers I know.  You KNOW she loves them unconditionally.  And you KNOW she puts up with no shit.  Because she’s a parent.  Not because of biology, because she just fucking is.  No one makes you prove that you can have a child when you become pregnant.  No one is there to pick apart your life and see if you are really eligible to have a kid.  Being an adoptive parent, or a stepparent means you have to open up your life to be judged and picked through to see if you are good enough, those children are earned in a way that biological children are not.

My boys had a stepmother before I became one.  I will admit, in the beginning, I wasn’t thrilled with this situation.  God forbid they call me her name after a weekend away.  But I forced my way over that stupid, insecure hurdle.  How can it be wrong to have more people to love my children?  How can it be a bad thing that there are more people to hug them, catch them, help them, hold them, be there for them?  Because it’s not about me.  That’s the thing with having kids, it’s never about you, ever again.  Bye-bye ego.  So I do what I think (hope) is best for my boys, and for my girl.  She’s better with 3 parents, and my boys are better with 4.

The other day K got off the bus and I picked her up from the stop.  The drive home is our check in time.  She has no fear.  She says everything that is on her mind.  I ask her to tell me the best part of the day, and the worst.  I learn so much about her in that 5 minutes (although the favorites are always lunch and PE), she is truly a remarkable little person.  After a rough day at school she asked me why some people are so mean, why some kids are so hurtful.  I told her that some people are like that.  I told her that a lot of times kids start out kind, and caring, and they change.  That as they grow they decide to shed those parts because they think it makes them stronger.  She thought for a moment, then said, “I think being kind makes you strong. I hope I don’t change.” I agreed.


New Year! Same shit.


New Year’s day is the ultimate fresh start.  It’s the NEW year.  It’s in the name.  We all make our resolutions, promising to do better, be better, eat less butter. I’ve made a few, most of which don’t matter for the sake of this particular blog, but this year I promised myself that I will be more tolerant, more forgiving, more grateful.  (Half of my resolutions are about being more of a person, the other half are about being less of a person….the irony.)  I generally think I’m a pretty good mom.  I put a lot of time and effort into keeping my home, keeping my family happy, and making it work.  Because being an adult is work.  Being a spouse is work.  Being a parent is work.  All of the memes are true; my Friday night fantasy IS to have a glass of wine at home, watch Netflix and curl up in bed by 9.  I have a lot going on in my life, and even more that is just in my head, but I THINK I keep my cool pretty well…in general.  I put up with a rash of shit from all corners and I generally take it in stride.  But sometimes the pile gets so large it has to topple over.  In that analogy the pile is my stressed feels and the toppling is when I walk around at random loudly finding fault with everything within 2 years and 200 miles of my location.

January 1, 2018 dawned cold, bright and beautiful.  Dave and I went out on New Year’s Eve, but were home by 10.  The kids stayed up until midnight, eating pizza, swilling apple cider, and watching Stranger Things.  Just like in the old, old days I came out of my room on the first to find piles of bodies, blankets, pizza crusts, and keg cups laying on their sides.  So like any good mother, I went back to bed for 3 more hours. Most of the mess didn’t right itself in my absence, but I did feel slightly better prepared to deal with it.  Luckily the sun was out and it was a perfect day to get outside, out of my way,  and enjoy a whole new year!  I finally forced them out of the house at 11, and told them not to come back for an hour.  Obviously, 10 minutes later the door opens and Alex, my 14-year-old son comes in. He tells me that his brother and a couple other kids are “tormenting” a dog up the street, banging on the fence to make it bark.  I like all animals more than most people, and I do not put up with that bullshit, ever.  I called, told him to come home. At that moment I notice an unfamiliar car pulling up outside our fence.  I walked down the driveway and was met by a friend of my younger son’s, and his mother.  They were arguing as I walked up, and kiddo did not look thrilled to be coming to visit.  He was instructed to spit it out, and he did, “A bunch of us found a bunch of garbage up at the school and we spread it out all over the place.” “…What?”  I couldn’t even understand what he was saying.  That’s not something people do.  That is CERTAINLY not something my kids do. The mom looked at me with sympathy, “I got curious what they were doing and drove up there.  They were kicking garbage around the school.  We’re going up now to clean it up, I just thought you should know.” I thanked her, and apologized.  She laughed, “Oh don’t apologize to me. I have FOUR boys. Want to have a drink sometime?”  This is how I make mom friends.  I don’t have any mom friends that have perfect kids and perfect homes and perfect perfectness.  If you text me on a weekly basis asking if I want to buy your child, if I have talked you down from a ledge the same week that you have talked me down from a ledge, or if you judge how your night is going by how full your wine glass is; you are my people.

The garbage got picked up, hands got scrubbed, and I got down to the bottom of what had happened in the (I’m not even kidding) TWENTY minutes since they left the house.  Turns out it was 90% the youngest one, so I sent Alex to do a chore while I hashed it out with Ryan.  I decided to do this while vacuuming because it suited my mood that everything should be loud, stressful, and impossible to understand. He cried about the dog, saying he “regretted it immediately.” so I didn’t make it too much worse, he knew it was wrong, I’m not worried that it will happen again.  I switched gears to the garbage, absolutely dumbfounded that my kid did that. Any of that.  I’m yelling (because: vacuum), and going through my thoughts on the matter when Alex calls to me. Twice.  I finally look up, and say “WHAT?!” He looks taken aback for a moment, then rallies, pointing down at his turned out pockets, “Look, elephant ears…” (Remember last time when I told you my kids would poke a rearing grizzly?!).  I turned off the vacuum and stared at him for a moment before saying, “Really…?”  This interruption allowed a nice segue into another ongoing issue; the need to “read the room.”  To know just by the way a situation feels how you should behave.  That a yelling mother may not want to be part of your Three Stooges bit.  I understand that this is an ability that takes some time to fully acquire, and being that intuitive doesn’t always come easily.  In fact I’ve met adults that don’t really have this down.  A perfect example of this is a family friend that interrupted a conversation during my grandmothers funeral to ask if anyone wanted to work on his boat motor. But I digress.  Alex and I got that hashed out.  Ryan and I got the garbage thing hashed out.  Punishments were decided, chores were divied up.  The yelling stopped, the vacuum was turned off.

It was about this time that I realized that the sound coming from the laundry room wasn’t, in fact, the washer filling, but the sound of the motor seizing, and the washer finally giving up after all these years of loyal service.  This is not great news; if you have children you know that they create an unbelieveable amount of laundry.  They clean up messes with their socks, they cover the dog with blankets, they put their used towel on the toilet, they have three wardrobe changes per day (except underwear, thats good for at least 2 days).  No washing machine is not an option.  In the last 2 months we have replaced the wood stove, the fridge, and now washing machine.  The other appliances will soon follow because this is what they do.

As I was squeezing out a load of towels by hand, my mind wandered back to the elephant ears.  Since he was able to move, well before he could talk,  Alex would pull out his pockets, and we would laugh about his elephant ears.  It was his first comedy routine.  He loved it when they came out of the dryer like that, and I didn’t fix them (still don’t).  Then he could strut around the house showing EVERYONE his elephant ears, making elephant noises, being a ham.  He did this for years, and I don’t think I’ve seen him do it in 7+.  I had actually completely forgotten that he ever did.  Deep breath.  I came out of the laundry room and happily told my husband, “Ok, I’m not crazy anymore!” to which he responded “Or any less!” Which is a true statement.

So here we are in a brand new year.  With the same old shit.  Nothing ever changes.  Until it does.  And it happens so fast you don’t remember it changing. You don’t remember when they stopped making elephant ears, when they got too old to hold your hand, kiss on the lips, snuggle up, sing in the car, try to make you laugh.  So I’m also adding “be more present” to my resolutions.  Because everything changes, so quickly.  The things that made me so upset yesterday don’t even matter today.  The boogers are blog posts.  And the elephant ears are now just memories.

Happy New Year.

It Aint Easy Being Queen

My husband and I have 3 kids that are school age. He has a 6-year-old daughter and I have 11 and 14-year-old boys. We very carefully set the schedule so that they are all together whenever possible. We do this for a few reasons: If we plan anything exciting, no kid gets left out. This schedule means we also have “no kid weekends” to just enjoy each other. Finally, and this is the big one; we are idiots. The kids get along like peanut butter and bologna. Like lace and barbed wire. Like…well, like caviar and ketchup (TM).
Recently we had the kids, and we had plans. Ok I had plans. My biggest downfall on these weekends are my plans.  My husband may think that this is (one of) my biggest flaws.  He is not a planner.  When we met I thought this was absolute insanity.  How do you book a road trip vacation 2 years in advance without a plan?  How do we look forward to something if don’t know PRECISELY what will happen in 6 months when we go to the Children’s Museum, then for a walk, and finish up with ice cream at Molly Moon’s?! My husband’s reasoning is that making firm plans just opens you up for disappointment.  But he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about. I make plans. I have great intentions. I SEE how amazing this could be. I don’t just have rose-tinted glasses, I have fucking Disney glasses. I plan whole days of fun and laughter and wonderful, happy bonding moments. I spend disgusting amounts of money, slave over all the delicious carbs I can find, and wait for the magic to begin…And then real life intrudes and the  silence is broken. Typically by someone saying “This pancake doesn’t even look like a heart.” or “I don’t want to eat the burned part.” (Every parent reading this knows that it is not, in fact, burned. It is cooked.) And like that, the spell is broken. Don’t worry! I rallied. Because I had plans.
So! Off we go, as a family, to daughter’s  Christmas concert. (“As a family” I of course mean just the youngest and my husband and I. Because the other 2 were no longer interested in my plans. Despite my bribing, begging, threatening.) She did a fantastic job being a happy reindeer, singing her little heart out, waving at her adoring fans. I won’t harp on this part because the whole thing was happy and adorable, and that’s not funny.

On our way home I look back at our girl, so cute in her little red dress.  She is peering out the window, rubbing her hand on the soft cushion of the car door.  She looks over and sees me gazing at her, lovingly.  She immediately jerks back from the window, hiding her hand.  (we all know that nothing good is going to happen now). “What’s going on…?” I ask, tremulously.  Wordlessly she holds up her index finger, which is topped with the largest booger I’ve ever seen, it’s like she pulled a crusty raisin out of there.  We stare at each other for a full 15 seconds.  Finally I grit my teeth (Literally) and say, “Were you going to rub that on my car door?” And she said yes. Because she is always honest. Always.  She may grow out of that at some point, but for now, she is brutally, disgustingly honest.  So where does one go with that?  I spent a few seconds trying to decide if I was going to lose my shit or let it go.   “Don’t do that.” I said unintelligibly, as my hand was still covering my mouth.  She agreed.

It’s barely worth mentioning that the house was trashed when we got home (because this surprises no one).  That each of my sons had (apparently) had a 7 course meal of packaged goods.  I know this  because every bit of packaging is strewn about the kitchen and living room.  I mention that they may want to get it picked up. Eventually the 11-year-old stands up and I see a tiny muffin has been crushed to dust beneath his butt.  Again, I am given the choice to let it go or lose it. I raise my voice, moderately, to get my point across.  Have you ever seen a nature show were the crazy person is face to face with a rearing grizzly bear and the crazy person says “OK! JEEZ! CALM DOWN!” No. You have not seen that. Because NO one is THAT crazy. Except my boy. One kid down (he’s grounded. Calm down.). My older son is then asked for the 15th time to clean up.  His manipulation is a little more subtle. He hugs. The more angry I get, the more I get hugged.  It feels like a pat on the head.  I hate this more than sparring with the younger one.  At least that seems honest.  When I say “Clean this up NOW!” and I get “But I want to hug you first….” it’s all I can do not to sweep his legs. So kid #2 is grounded. Yes, for trying to hug me.

At this moment is when the youngest one announces that she has wet her pants.  On our bed.  Because she didn’t want to take the time to go to the bathroom.  (She has been fully potty trained since 2. This “not wanting to miss anything” business has come up recently. And it is….frustrating.)  My husband, noticing that I have dropped my head between my knees and am shaking slightly, deduces that I may not be the best person to deal with the accident.  While he is dealing with the mess I’m staring into space, thinking about my plans, and how kids ruin everything. Wondering if it’s too late to leave them all at the fire station. Wondering if anyone would notice if I just walked out the door right now. Dave comes back in, and sits down, waiting… “I HATE THIS! They are awful! All they do is make messes and fight and stink and RUIN EVERYTHING! I’m the Queen of Shit and Piss!!!!” I sob. Dave laughs so hard he nearly falls off the couch.  This does not help.  But seeing the little girl hiding in a doorway down the hall listening in brings me back to sanity (ish).  She walks over, cautiously, and stands in front of me. “I’m sorry that you’re sad.” I tell her I’m not really sad, I’m frustrated, and acting badly, and getting over it. She looks at me critically for a minute and then climbs up on my lap, snuggling in under my chin. She looks up at me and says, so sweetly, “At least you’re the queen.”



Caviar with Ketchup

Wow. My first blog. Ever. I have written this opening sentence in 15 different ways and none of them are good enough so I’m just going to leave this here.  Which is fitting, since the entirety of my blog is about being less than perfect. Accepting less than perfect. Seeing the beauty in less than perfect. Sometimes much, much less than perfect.   This is all in fun.  When you read about my struggles, please, please laugh. Someone should.  I’ll be over here in the corner with a box of tissues and a jar of Nutella.

So lets start with some basic get to know you games!  I have 2 kids. Well, 3. Actually 6. And a grandson.  I know I’m already coming across a little flaky, let me just assure you; it’s about to get much, much worse. 2 years ago (next week!) I took my 2 sons and elbowed my way into a new family.  My husband has 4 kids, but only 1 kid is a kid… So we have a pretty good age spread; 29, 24, 24, 14, 11, and 6.  Did I mention the oldest has a 6-year-old?  Just call me Gram-gram.  Can you imagine the drama that comes from each of those ages?  Or any of them mashed together?  Or ALL OF THEM?!  If you answered Yes, then I need you to write a blog and send it directly to me so I can feel smug about how together my life is in comparison. Unless you are one of those parents that have 10 kids with assigned chores and no TV’s in your house and everything runs like clockwork….Well you aren’t reading this because you wouldn’t be caught dead with me. For everyone else: buckle up.

I’m writing for every parent that has sent their kid to school in December in shorts because they just can’t have that argument again. For every father who watched their child pour ketchup over a perfectly grilled filet. For every mother that has watched a YouTube video of a GROWN ADULT eating candy, and commented favorably on his performance so that you can have something in common with your 11-year-old.  Has your child talked you into serving pie for breakfast? Have you come to terms with the idea that a clean room is one without rotting food?  Are you in hiding from the PTA? I’m here for you. We’ll get through this together. And maybe, just maybe, we can laugh about it.