Tuesday, June 7, 2016

School's Out for the Summer...

...and thank God, because Lord knows I didn't need another morning like this...although in our family, we laugh about these kinds of days.  Because really, what else can you do?  The kids are still teasing me about the laundry basket...

A couple of weeks ago, I had one of those mornings.

You know the kind. 

The kids and I were supposed to be out of the house by 7:34:35 AM to avoid being seriously late, and it was getting precariously close. I looked up at the digital clock on the stove just as it clicked over to 7:33.

I was putting another of my customary breakfast sandwiches that I eat on the way to work—a Special K frozen sausage, egg, and cheese on flatbread—into the microwave because my younger son had asked for the first one I’d made.  Although I’d already made him a bowl of cereal, I’m a sucker for mommy guilt, especially being a full-time working mom.

“Are you sure you’ll eat it?” I’d asked him, hesitating before I unwrapped the crinkly paper that it comes in to pop it into the microwave.

“Yes,” my son answered.  “I’m really hungry.”

“Okay, because I don’t want to waste it…” I’d explained.  There are only 4 in a package and those little bastard sandwiches cost like 5 bucks a box. 

“I want it, Mommy,” my son replied.

“You’re sure?” I said again.

“I want it, Mommy,” he repeated, and this time he gave his belly a rub for emphasis.  “I’m really hungry.”

So I was putting the second one in so that I’d have something to eat on the way to work (I’d rather be late than hungry, and I’m a sucker for a routine—wouldn’t my day be totally off if I didn’t eat my breakfast sandwich?  Damn OCD), and these were the things I still had to do, due to the aforementioned OCD that everyone (my husband) has told me for the last 18 years that I should get on pills for, but I refuse because I’ve heard that you can’t drink while taking them and dammit a life without booze is not a life I want to live:

·         Fill up my coffee cup, add cream and sugar, unplug the pot, move it to the opposite counter (just to be SURE that it’s unplugged!), and check 23 times that it’s actually unplugged, even though it’s all the way across the room from where it started
·         Throw the kids’ lunches in their backpacks, grab my own lunch, fill up my water bottle (at least 12 cubes of ice)
·         Check about 4 times (each room) to make sure all lights and ceiling fans are off
·         Check about 4 times that the little night light above the stove is off (I mean, you hear all the time about hood lights bursting into flames and burning down houses…or not)
·         Get the kids out the door while balancing everything precariously in my arms as I lock the door and jiggle it 17 times to make sure it’s locked
·         Set a mental reminder to have my husband do the annual tightening-of-the-doorknobs because the one on the front door is getting loose (but HOW?)

Perhaps I should re-think the pill thing. I’m sure they make a brand that allows for a few drinks every now and then.

In any case, there was simply no way I was going to be on time that morning.

I didn’t need a mirror; I could feel the frenzied look on my face, the one that always causes my older son—a very mature 7—to step up and help his mama. It’s the same look, coincidentally, that causes my younger son to ponder and try out new ways to fuck with me.

I popped my breakfast sandwich into the microwave, hit 1-1-5, and turned to see my younger son, still at the table, give me a smile as he spooned another bite of Lucky Charms into his mouth.

“Hurry up, son,” I said.  “You’ve got exactly one minute and 15 seconds to finish that cereal and at least some of that sandwich, and then we’re out the door.”

He shot his breakfast sandwich a disdainful glance and I could feel my blood pressure rise.

I had forgotten something in my bedroom, so I rushed to get it, feeling my straw-like golden mane (it’s funny because I kind of look like a horse) flying behind me. I knew my hair was going to be a little frizzy that day because beads of sweat were forming on my forehead and at my temple and that perspiration never fails to moisten the wisps of hair that fall around my face, causing it all to go to shit.

As I entered my bedroom, I caught a look at myself in the mirror over my dresser and realized that the shirt that I was wearing—the brand new flowy one that I had gotten at Wal-Mart for only 7.97—was see-through.

“Goddammit,” I muttered to myself, throwing open a drawer to find a tank top that I could slip on under it. “It’s simply impossible to find quality shit at Wal-Mart for $7.97 anymore.”

I changed quickly, grabbed what I’d forgotten, and then walked into the kitchen, where my son was still giving the evil eye to his breakfast sandwich.

Oh, no,” I said, “we’re not starting that.  You begged for the breakfast sandwich. You had to have the breakfast sandwich.  Mommy asked three times if you were sure that you wanted the breakfast sandwich.  You’re eating that breakfast sandwich!”  I heard my voice go shrill at the end, and I wondered if the more I said “breakfast sandwich,” the less of an effect that it had.  Because my son wasn’t even lifting a finger to touch the breakfast sandwich.  And it was pissing me off.

Speaking of breakfast sandwiches—

I smelled something burning.

I hurried to the microwave to check on the second breakfast sandwich, the one that I had popped in for myself. The microwave display showed that my sandwich still had 9 minutes and 3 seconds to cook.

9 minutes and 3 seconds…what the hell?

I hurriedly jabbed at buttons on the microwave to shut the thing off.  “What did I push?” I asked myself.  “What did I push?”

I could’ve sworn that I had only hit 1-1-5, but there were the crispy edges of my sausage staring up at me from the plate, telling me differently.

“I can save it,” I said with all the confidence of an Emergency Medical Tech performing CPR.  “I can save this sandwich.”  I pulled the paper towel—brown because it was burnt, too—off of the sandwich, watching as bits of it remained stuck to the bottom as I pulled. I reassured myself with a shrug.  It had happened before; I could eat a little bit of paper towel.  It almost had the same consistency of the flatbread, anyway.

“Sorry, Mommy,” I heard my younger son say, and I could tell from the way he said it, the way his voice rose and fell in the middle of the word “sorry,” that it was one of those preemptive sorries. I looked over my shoulder at the table, where I watched him give a nonchalant shrug as he rose from the table and walked out of the kitchen.  “But I don’t want this breakfast sandwich.”

I wasn’t sure if the room actually turned red or if it was the angry blood that was pooling in my eyes as I glanced down at my poor burned breakfast sandwich that never would have even been an issue—a crispy issue that, on top of it all, was making me at least 1 minute and 15 seconds later for work—had my son not begged, pleaded, and insisted that he needed my first breakfast sandwich.

I took a deep breath.  “Get back in here and eat a few bites of that breakfast sandwich,” I said.  My voice was calm—so eerily calm, in fact, that my older son, who has had an extra 3 years to learn to recognize the signs pointing to his mom on the brink of crazy, stepped slowly around the corner and into the kitchen. 

“Do you need anything, Mom?” he asked me sweetly.

“Just your younger brother’s head on a silver platter,” I replied, opening the utensil drawer and retrieving a butter knife. I held it out to him.  “Can you do that for me?”

Okay, that last part with the butter knife and the head-on-the-silver-platter request didn’t actually happen.  I made it up. Holy shit, you guys, I didn’t literally go crazy.

What I really did was smile at my older son, thank him for being so helpful, and then call out to his brother just as the clock clicked over to 7:36.


“Get in here, son, and eat a few bites of that breakfast sandwich,” I said again.

“NO!” my younger son yelled from the living room, where he had turned on an episode of Peppa Pig.

My older son sighed heavily and raised his eyebrows as he looked at me, shaking his head in a gesture that lamented kids these days.

“ONE,” I started.  I had barely gotten the full number out of my mouth when I started the second one.  "TWO!”

It came out in that guttural voice—the one of whose origins I’m not even sure, but it sounds like some otherworldly Hades shit bubbling out of my face and it clearly says I’m not fucking around.  I'm not sure what would have happened had I gotten to three*, but I do know that with the tone I used, I even scared the shit out of myself, which is good because a flighty, "Come and eat your sandwich or I'll...okay, I'm not sure what I'll do but it'll be BAD!" probably wouldn't have been so effective.

Had my son not come running to the kitchen table and hurriedly taken a bite of the sandwich, I might have done it myself just to avoid my own sandwich wrath.

But my bluff worked.  My boy sat and ate a bite.

“I normally wouldn’t be such a jerk about it, buddy,” I explained, softening.  “But you insisted on that sandwich.  I asked you three times if you were sure.  And Mom’s in a hurry, and I’m not a short-order cook, and dammit, you’re eating at least some of that sandwich.” 

My son nodded his head and took another small bite.  I felt myself start to calm down until I looked up at the clock once again.  7:37.


I sighed and decided to call my boss and tell him I’d be a few minutes late.  I picked up my phone but just as I began dialing, I heard my younger son let out a small yelp.

I turned in time to watch him spill the rest of the milk from his cereal bowl onto his pants.

And it wasn’t the kind of spill that could be swiped up with a damp paper towel.

Nope. This one would require a new pair of pants.

I set the phone down, trying to remain calm by reminding myself that one late day of work was no big deal in the grand scheme of things. I mean, I was just one small person in this world, living on this huge planet out in the middle of an infinite solar system surrounded by only-God-knows what else.

Then I started getting anxious about all of the mysteries of the universe and beyond, and I focused instead on finding a pair of uniform pants for my son in the basket of clean, unfolded laundry that had been sitting on the living room floor for the past three nights.

I think, if I’m recalling things clearly, that this was the point where I actually did lose it.  Because as I sifted through the laundry basket, getting deeper and deeper, I came to the sinking realization that there were no other clean uniform pants.  The ones he was currently wearing—the milk-stained pants— had been the last pair.

“DAMMIT!!!!” I yelled.

I swear I could feel my skin turn green and my leg muscles bulge out of my khaki capris, ripping them into a pair of shredded cutoff shorts as I morphed into the Hulk and began grabbing items of clothing one by one and throwing them into the playroom just off of the living room. When I’d gotten to the bottom and there were no clothes left to throw, I lifted the empty basket over my head and hurled it across the playroom, where it hit the wall with a tiny plastic thud and fell unsatisfyingly to the floor.

I didn’t cry.  No, I didn’t cry, and as I looked at both of my boys, now standing next to one another, frozen with their mouths hanging open as they drank in the sight of their mother, I realized that it was because we all recognized something at the same time.  We recognized—they from my look of wide-eyed hysteria, I from how it felt wearing the look of wide-eyed hysteria—that I was too busy teetering on the edge of insanity to cry. If I cried, I might just slip in.

And so, instead of crying, I sighed, looked at my boys, and delivered my defeated monologue on society.

“It’s not our fault, boys.  It's not our fault.  It’s society’s fault.”

I paused for a moment, letting the words sink in.  I wanted them to gain as much as they could of the vast knowledge and wisdom I was planning to impart to them as I stood knee-deep in strewn-about clothes.  “Society expects too much from people nowadays.  We schedule every moment of our lives, packing in as much as we can from dawn to dusk, and still it’s never enough. And it starts at such a young age.”

I looked at my older son.  “I mean, look at your brother—he’s only four years old, and he already knows how to write!” I said accusingly, extending an arm toward my four-year-old.

My older son and I turned to look at my younger son, standing pantsless in the middle of the living room, staring back at us with a look of confusion on his face.  Was he supposed to be proud of himself for knowing how to write at such a young age, or should he go ahead and begin a lifelong journey of self-loathing that he would forever be able to trace back to this very moment—the moment when his mom pointed out that he could—GASP—write at the tender age of 4.  THE NERVE!!

I stopped.  “I’m sorry, pet,” I said to my younger son, walking to him so I could pat him on the head.  “Good on your for knowing how to write.  Good on you.”  (I love British authors; I want to be one someday.  Every once in a while I’ll slip into their dialect and act like I did it on accident.)

I was getting tired, and I hadn’t even begun my work day yet.  Hell, I hadn’t even called my boss to let him know I was going to be late for my work day.  I sighed again, once more turning to my boys in a final, desperate attempt to get them to understand.

“Look at me,” I said, emphasizing by pointing to myself. “I grew up in the days where moms got to sit at a card table in the kitchen with their sisters and watch soap operas, drink coffee, and smoke ciggies while playing pea knuckle all day.  The only preschool I attended was Mother’s Morning Out one morning a week. I was basically illiterate until the 2nd grade—we all were back then—and look how well I turned out!”

The statement hung in the air for just a beat too long as we all took in my red, frazzled face, my wild hair and eyes…and the upturned laundry basket in the next room, surrounded by clothes all over the floor.

My older son moved a few steps toward me and patted me soothingly.  “Sure you did, Mom,” he lied, reassuring me.  “Sure you did.”

And then my younger son said this:  “Mommy?  I have to poop.”

Nine minutes later, I sat at the table chewing on my younger son’s breakfast sandwich while he took a shit in the bathroom and my older son watched a little bit of Wild Kratts.  I texted my boss:

Going to miss the meeting this morning.  Younger son is taking a dump; it’s been nine minutes and there’s no end in sight.  Bright side?  It’s Thursday, and there’s only one day left in the week for me to be late.  See you in a bit.

When my son was finished pooping and I’d checked his butt to make sure he’d wiped well, we finally got loaded into the car, where he said this as soon as we took off:

“Mommy? Where’s my breakfast sandwich?  You didn’t eat it, did you? I’m hungry.”

*I employ a lot of hyperbolic humor in my writing. Any consequence I give my kids is always even-keeled, healthy, and well thought out because I am a good mom who raises her boys in a house full of humor and love no matter what kind of frenzied morning we have. Basically:  Suck it, internet trolls.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

5 Tips for High School Graduates Heading off to College (from Someone Who Knows)

1.)     Study Hard.
Or don’t.  I managed to slip by with C’s and have a fucking blast while doing it.

After 4 years of intensive academics at an expensive private high school where I had earned straight A’s and graduated in the top 10% of my class, I’d gotten into the college that I wanted to and then I realized—hey, now that the hard part is over, I’m pretty sure I can still get a job that I want with a degree from here, whether I get straight A’s or not. 

So I shot for C’s…and I got them.  It was easy to do, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

So do that.  Definitely do that. And have fun.

And when your parents call you during the first semester of college like my dad did me and ask, “Son/Daughter, are you on drugs?” maybe don’t reply, “Oh, I tried pot like 3 times, but I didn’t like it, so no worries there,” like I did.  That might just give them heart attacks. 

Luckily my dad handled it like a champ.

Perhaps you could go with a different answer, the one I gave when my dad pressed me for the reason I wasn’t getting straight A’s anymore:  “Oh, that?  I just figured out that I don’t give as much of a shit anymore.”

2.)     Don’t Be a Dirty Whore.
Side note for my own boys:  You’re my children, so genetics aren’t necessarily on your side for this one.

But if you’re going to be like I was, at least make him/her buy you dinner first.  And Chex Mix on the 18th hole of the local golf course before doing the deed doesn’t count.

3.)     Embrace the Latest Technology.
I’m not big on technology.  I’m 38 but I act like a 92-year-old when you put me in front of a computer or i-whatever.  But still, learn how to use all of the latest shit simply so that you don’t look like such a huge goddamned nerd.

One of my favorite gifts of my entire life was a typewriter that my dad gave me for Christmas when I was 12.

You know what’s coming, and you’re right:  You bet your sweet asses I took that thing to college with me.

My best friend Leigh used to make so much fun of me when she’d find me in my bedroom of the apartment that we shared, smoking a cigarette while flipping the “carriage release lever” (I had to Google that term) on a particularly feverish writing night.

“Holy shit, Shay, it’s like I’ve slipped back in time.  You do realize that we were BORN in the 70’s, and that it’s not 1973 right now?”

“But it even has a white-out button,” I would reply, pointing to it in awe.  “Have you ever seen one of those?”

“No,” she would say.  “Because I haven’t used a damned typewriter since I used to go visit my grandma’s house…before she died 10 years ago.”

Don’t even get me started on how stupid I looked hauling that motherfucker around.  Imagine this:  A big-nosed, gangly, pasty girl (my boys—aren’t you proud?), rushing to the campus library, typewriter tucked safely under her arm, to pound out a term paper until they had to scooch her out because the keys were too loud and they were getting complaints from other patrons.

And then…the mortification that came when a sweet, well-meaning professor—one of my favorites—sent me an e-mail:  “Shay, you know that school will lend you a laptop free of charge?  Maybe you haven’t received the e-mail about it since you tend to enjoy your typewriter…it’s just that typewriters haven’t been used since the 70’s, and the papers that you hand in look a bit unprofessional.”

Had he been talking to my best friend?

Anyway, peeps, learn from my mistakes.  That way, at least I can feel like there was a reason I made them.

4.)    Learn to Take a Proper Shot.
(And while we’re at it, sprout a British accent in writing by throwing “proper” in front of all nouns.  People love that.)

Let me tell you about a frat party I attended during the first few weeks of college:

It was called a "progressive," meaning that in each room, there was a different type of drink to take.

The first room had drinks called flaming Dr. Peppers, and I was so excited because I loved Dr. Pepper.  So I got my shot and started walking around with my best friend Leigh, whom I had only just met when moving into the dorms, but I could already tell would be my best friend for life (and she is).

About 30 minutes later, I was still sipping my drink but now complaining because “this shot totally doesn’t taste like Dr. Pepper.  Those assholes are either liars or they don’t know how to make a damned drink.”

Leigh looked at me, then down at my drink, then back up at my innocent, braces-wearing face.  And then Leigh burst into hysterical laughter.

“You fucking idiot!” she exclaimed.  “You were supposed to take it all at once—quickly!  That’s why they call it a shot.  It probably tastes like SHIT now!”

It did.


Again, learn from my mistakes.  I know I did.  I became known campus-wide as a college drunk in a school that was known for its college drunks, and I think that’s saying something.

One day, my class was meeting in the computer lab.  I walked in to hear my beloved professor (from #3 above) bellow, “SHAY!  What is in that cup?”

I looked up at him, offended.  “It’s SODA, Dr. Smith.  Do you really think I’d be dragging a huge cup of vodka to class?  JEEZ!”

“Um, no, Shay,” he laughed.  “I was simply pointing out the fact that we’re meeting in the computer lab today, and we’re not supposed to have food or drink—whether or not it’s alcohol—in case of spills on the expensive equipment.”

Oh.  I guess my reputation made me a little defensive.

5.)     Don’t Smoke Pot.
One of the 3 ill-fated attempts that I had at doing it happened on Spring Break.

Suddenly, I found my heart racing and tears streaming down my face.

“Oh my gosh, Shay, are you okay?” my equally high best friend asked.

“No!” I shouted.  “My heart is racing and I’m pretty sure I’m having a heart attack!”

“Oh—okay,” one of our high guy friends said, slowly turning his head to gaze at me through squinted eyes in the sun.  “Well, let us know if it gets worse.”

I stopped crying for a moment and looked back at him. “What the fuck are you doing to do if it does?”

He laughed softly and shrugged his shoulders.  “I don’t know…take you to the hospital?”

I began crying again. “I’m screwed. I’m totally screwed.”  Then I had another thought.  “You guys,” I wailed.  “What if I die and I have to talk to God high?

The next morning, my best friend made a new rule.  “Watching you was like watching a goddamned after-school special starring Helen Hunt,” she muttered.  “I was just waiting for you to jump off of the balcony.  Listen, Shay, no more pot for you.”

I agreed wholeheartedly.  And that was the end of my college pot experimentation.

Is it bad that I want to go back after writing up this list?  Oh my gosh, it was so much fun and I'm totally jealous that you're just getting ready to do it all and my time has passed...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Scarred for Life

You know those moments when you realize you’re scarring your child for life as you’re in the middle of scarring your child for life?

But you do it anyway because this is a battle you HAVE to win?

Well, I can only imagine the horror stories that my son is going to repeat for the rest of his life to anyone who will listen:

“I do NOT eat sweet potatoes.  This one time, when I was 4 years old, my mom made me eat 5 bites of this godawful sweet potato and basil soup that my dad had made.  Did that bitch eat any? NO.  But she sure as hell made my brother and me eat a bowl of it.”

It’s true, you guys.  I didn’t touch that shit.  It was a concoction that my husband had read about during one of his health-food kicks, resulting in a trip to the store to buy all the ingredients for 12 healthy freezer bag meals.  We spent the following Saturday night as a family date night, having drinks while chopping vegetables and mixing ingredients with our boys while a 90’s station played in our brightly lit kitchen.

Sounds charming, doesn’t it?

And it would’ve been.  It was for a little while—until the kids and I started dancing around the kitchen, unable to contain our joy at the fun we were all having.

It was too much happiness for my very loving but grumpy-by-nature husband, who stayed unfailingly and annoyingly on-task all evening.  “What…? What the hell is this?” he asked from the counter, beckoning with his knife.  “What is all of this…?” He trailed off as if the term for one of the most joyful activities in the history of time—I mean, they even made a movie about it (ever heard of Footloose, hubs?)—had failed him.

I threw a glance over my shoulder as I held hands with my boys, dancing ring-around-the-rosey style.  “Um…dancing?  And hurry up and get a picture of it, will you.  Look at this sweet scene: I am an adorable, fun-loving mother dancing barefoot in the kitchen with her boys!”

When my husband just looked at me, chopping knife suspended in the air in one hand and an onion in the other as if he couldn’t believe the nerve of the request I’d just made in light of all we had to do that night, I said it again. “Hurry up before the moment is over!” I repeated, my voice bordering on a shriek.  “I am an adorable, fun-loving mother dancing with her boys and I WANT A PICTURE!”

My husband obliged, but not before a heavy sigh as he set down the knife, wiped off his hands, and grabbed his phone to capture the scene.  After that, the spell of the picturesque date night as a family was broken, at least for my husband. He began muttering Office Space stapler style about this being “a family project but I’m the only one doing anything,” and I told him—in a way that completely illustrated that I was, in fact, not—that I was sorry that the boys and I had smiled a little too vigorously and that he’d had to slice one extra baby carrot by himself.

We haven’t done the freezer meal date night again since that picture of domestic bliss.

I blame the sweet potato soup.

The night we were chopping up ingredients (I’m not sure if this was just before or just after Dancegate 2015), my eyes rested on the sweet potatoes, and I remember thinking that my husband must have grabbed them at the store without my noticing.

“What the hell are those?” I asked.

“Um, sweet potatoes?” he answered in the same voice I had used to point out the word for dancing.

“Yeah,” I said, “but what the hell are they doing in my kitchen?”

I fucking hate sweet potatoes.

My husband had rolled his eyes and snatched them from the table.  “I’ll do these,” he’d said.

“That’s cool,” I’d acquiesced, “but don’t get upset with me when I don’t eat any of whatever that shit is when the time comes.”

“Whatevs,” my husband replied, already hard at work on the sweet potatoes.

That time came last week.  And it coincided with a week in which the stubbornness that my husband insists my younger son got from his mother had been rearing its ugly head.  My boy had eaten what was for dinner each night, but not without a fight. And I was sick of fighting. I had to let him know that I’m the mom, I’m going to win, and we’re going to stop having fights every evening over how many pieces of cauliflower he’s going to have to eat before he earns a Little Debbie snack cake.

Just eat what’s for dinner, boy!

So I sat with him and spoon-fed him, and I made sure that none of the sweet potatoes “accidentally” fell out of his mouth and hit the floor because if they did, I told him, I would go get another, bigger scoop of the soup and add it to his bowl.

Dammit, I was going to win.

My son ate the soup. But goddammit, I felt awful for him. It tasted so bad that the poor boy held a napkin in his left hand so that as soon as he put a bite into his mouth with his right, he could swiftly throw that napkin over his mouth so that the pieces that involuntarily spewed out would be caught and he wouldn’t have to risk getting a whole other spoonful added to his bowl.

It was so awkward that in the middle of his third bite, he started laughing at the absurdity of it all. I joined him—but not before reminding him not to laugh too hard lest a sweet potato bit come flying out and he had to get another scoop.

To make it even worse, his older brother, who loves healthy food and was honest-to-goodness born with a craving for all things fruit and vegetable (obviously he’s adopted; I’ve heard kids crave what they get from their mother in utero and I’m convinced that’s why my younger son absolutely lights up from within when he sees vats of spaghetti noodles covered with butter and salt), was sitting right next to him, slurping down the soup with a vigor that made even me want to puke.

“Mmmm,” he would groan in satisfaction between bites.  “This sweet potato and basil soup is delicious!

My younger son and I paused for a moment, my younger son with his napkin still held over his mouth, and stared at my older boy in disbelief.

By the end of dinner, 5 bites of the soup had been consumed by my younger son so, as I boasted to my co-workers the next day, I had won.

One of them—the one who brags that she never once had to raise her voice to either of her grown children when they were younger—shot me a look.  “Oh, you consider that winning?”

Another co-worker, a more realistic mom who also happens to be a less of a bald-faced liar than the first, jumped in.  “Hell yes, she won!”

I’m not sure.  It was important to me that my son learned that he might as well stop grumbling and complaining and putting up a fight every night about it because he’s going to have to eat what’s for dinner, but I usually try to at least make it something palatable.  And this shit wasn’t.

“Did you at least lead by example?” the first co-worker asked.  “Did you eat some?”

Heeeell no, I didn’t eat that shit!” I responded, recoiling. 

“Wait,” the second co-worker interjected, “you didn’t?”

I shook my head vigorously.  Because it was like I told that mom’s group I used to be a part of when the leader tried to make us play a stupid game to help remember all of the other moms’ names.

“Just go around the table and assign a food to each lady’s name!” she’d said brightly.  “Like, when you get over here to Caroline, say, ‘Caroline Cookies’!”

I shook my head.  “Nope.”

She stopped abruptly, and I could see her deflate just a little bit.  “No?  You’re not going to play?”

I shook my head again.  “No.  Because I’m an adult and I don’t have to.”

Surprisingly nobody in the group rendered me an asshole, and in fact, many of the other moms nodded their heads in agreement.  “Yeah,” I could almost hear them thinking.  “We’re not going to play this game, either.  Because we’re adults and we don’t have to.” 

Revolutionary concept, no?

But this time, both of my co-workers rolled their eyes. I made a mental note to change that part of the story to a lie insisting that I snarfed a few bites of the soup in solidarity with my son the next time I told it.

In the meantime, I’ll just hope and pray that I didn’t actually scar him for life.

“I don’t get pissed off easily,” I can imagine him saying upon meeting his future girlfriend, “but the one way to make me mad is to offer me a sweet potato.  Don’t ever offer me a goddamned sweet potato…”

A couple of days after our dinner of sweet potato and basil soup, my husband chuckled, shaking his head.  “That shit really was pretty bad,” he said.

I thought about adding the recipe to my Trashy Recipe Recommendation tab, but I wouldn’t do that to you guys because it’s no way to thank you for reading. I think instead I’ll send it to the Army so they can add it to their prisoner of war torture files. It’ll be much more effective than waterboarding. In fact, they could call it sweet potato soup boarding and make the prisoners who won’t talk take licks of this shit off of a board.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Catholic Guilt Begins in the Cradle

The other day, my boys and I were driving through our little town on the way to soccer practice when we passed the Methodist church.

"Remember when we went to that church a few times a couple of years ago, Mom?" my older son said from the backseat.  "It was so fun."  Then he stopped abruptly, as if he'd just realized he'd said something wrong.  His voice turned serious. "But I know church isn't supposed to be fun, Mom," he said in all of his 7-year-old wisdom.

Ah, that sweet Catholic guilt sure does start early, doesn't it?  

Here's a story I wrote a couple of years ago about that Methodist church and the Catholic guilt that my husband and I experienced when we walked through the doors.  I'm happy to report that even now, all these years later and despite our ingrained-from-a-young-age misgivings about attending another church (and the fact that I wrote about it), they still love us. The feeling is mutual.

But we still regularly attend the Catholic church.  (I'm Type A, people. Habits are hard to break for me.)

"Catholic Guilt"

Before I even begin this story, I must specify:  Yes, I go to church every single Sunday.  It makes me feel better about the trash that I write throughout the week. 

And yes, I do understand that singing a few hymns won’t erase the drunken skankiness of my past (yesterday), but hey, it’s a start.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become friends with a Methodist woman (I like to call her "My Meth"--she loves that) who has made it her mission to get me to abandon my Catholic faith and come to her church.

Okay, she so hasn't done that. But I like to say that because it gets her all riled up—and because then I’ll have someone else to blame for the times when I do go to her Sunday services and my Catholic friends find out.

The first time the hubs and I decided to cheat on the Catholics by attending a Methodist service, we spent the entire Saturday night prior to the service shaking, tangled up in our sheets, drenched in nervous sweat and unable to sleep.  No, it wasn’t the lack of alcohol making our poor bodies behave that way, and I know this because we’d had a few drinks before hitting the sack that Saturday night. 

It was actually our Catholic guilt making our bodies lurch feverishly as we tried—to no avail—to get some sleep.

I remember the hubs rolling over in the dark to face me.  “Do you think they sacrifice Catholics?” he whispered, tremors in his deep voice.

We learned that Sunday that no, they most certainly do NOT do Catholic sacrifices, and that also, it may not have been the best question for the hubs to pose to the greeter as we nervously walked through the doors of the church.  Oh, well.  Better luck next time.

Here are a few other things we learned NOT to do—things that might make visiting another church one weekend go a bit more smoothly for you.  Hey, I’m here to help, my peeps:

1.) Do not shake with fear as you enter the new church, as if it would be the act of walking into another church—and not one of the many nights of standing half naked in a random bathroom, quivering with regret after a collegiate one-night stand—that would cause you to spontaneously burst into a thousand flaming pieces and fly into the fiery pits of hell.

          Wow, that “bathroom quivering” line was way more depressing than it was funny, huh?
          Ah, memories.

2.)   Definitely don’t slap the ass of the woman handing out programs for the day’s service, causing her to squeal with delight and say, “Betcha don’t get to do that in the Catholic church, huh?”

Okay, maybe you can do that one. But to be fair, I should specify that we knew each other through mutual friends, so my behavior wasn't all that shocking to her.  In fact, I'm pretty sure she enjoyed it.  Pervert.

3.)   When offered a cup of coffee (Seriously, you guys, they have coffee during the service), don’t say, “And I won’t go to hell?” prompting the congregation member who kindly offered it to respond, “Um, well, I don’t—I don’t think so…” and look down at her own cup questioningly.

4.)   Do not yell at your husband for handing you one of the children when you weren’t ready and almost making you drop your “steaming cup of the Lord’s Coffee.”

5.)    When standing in the middle of a group of people you hardly know before the service begins, do  not engage in an argument with said husband over said Jesus Coffee, especially when he begins with something like this:

“I hope you enjoy that coffee in hell.”

“They don’t even have coffee in hell,” is an example of what not to snap back. 

“Exactly.  Remember that,” is what he should not respond with a smartass smirk.

Obviously this is a totally hypothetical situation, but if it truly had happened, I would venture to guess that I was a little too happy for the hubs’s liking, and he had to do something to squash my coffee-loving spirit.

6.)   When the preacher takes his place at the front of the congregation to begin the service, do not lean over to ask your friend, who was nice enough to sit with you during your first visit to her church, if you should address him as “Head Witch.”

7.)    Do not ignore the hubs when he begins sneaking sips of your coffee while you’re wrangling with the children.  Instead, raise your eyebrows at him, move two chairs down and explain that it’s because you “don’t want any sparks to fall on me” when he bursts into flames.

8.)    After the beautiful service ends, do not ask your friend if she thinks God will be mad at you for attending her church. She might get a bit upset and yell, “And don’t come back, ASSHOLES!” as you are walking out with your family.

9.)    DO buy a hair shirt for the next time you decide to attend a service there.  Like the hubs said, “Isn’t church supposed to be a little bit more miserable in order to count?”

You’re welc for the tips, my peeps.  Although I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this blog, the first thought you have on Sunday morning is probably more, “Who moved the damned whisk-ay?!  I need some for my coffee!” and not so much, “Hm, which church service shall we attend today, darling?”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle...Redirect?

Several weeks ago, my older son’s school hosted a guest speaker.  I happened to be off of work that day, so I was able to say yes when I was called in to sub for one of the teachers at his school.  It worked out well for me; it’s an easy subbing day when an hour and a half of it is spent at an assembly, listening to a guest speaker.

Without even hearing the background that the speaker gave about himself at the beginning of his show, anyone could quickly tell that this guy’s entire life’s work was devoted to saving the world and teaching others to do the same.

Our first clue was that his microphone stand was made from some old hollow tubing, which he proudly pointed out to us.

“Look, kids!” he said, using a Price Is Right model flourish as he swooped his hands up and down the length of the mike stand.  “Recycling is so much fun that even this trusty microphone stand that I got for free on the side of the road works like a drea—"

And then, with timing that could only have come from the sweet Lord above, the repurposed microphone stand fell to the ground with a loud, fantastic clatter, but not too quickly that the microphone didn’t pick up the guest speaker’s frustrated mutter:  “—oh, shit.  Goddammit, not again…”

Okay, that totally didn’t happen.  But because I’m an awful person, I kept fervently hoping throughout the entire presentation that it would.  I even sent up a quick prayer of petition (I’m a cradle Catholic; that’s got to count for something, right?) that it would, because OMG, how funny would that have been?

But alas, it never happened.  Ah, well.

Although I wasn’t able to dream my microphone scenario into existence like all of those liar self-help books say that you can (thus making the person who can’t seem to get it right feel even worse about herself because dammit, she’s just not good enough to make shit happen), I will say that one very wonderful thing (besides a fully functional microphone stand) came out of the man’s “hollow tubing” description and my daydreaming:  a flashback.

Suddenly, I was back in my best friend’s 1-bedroom apartment in Texas during the summer of 2001, sitting on the couch with her as we watched an episode of Southpark.  It was the one where Cartman had gotten an aquarium so that he could raise “sea men” to worship him. When the other kids, impressed, asked where he’d acquired these sea men, Catman’s reply went something like this: “A guy that I met in an alley gave them to me for free!  All I had to do is close my eyes and suck them through a tube!”

My best friend and I had cracked up so hard that we’d spit out our beers and slid helplessly to the floor, were we’d laughed until our sides hurt and tears rolled down our faces.  I still can’t think of that line without laughing out loud.

What was the question again?

So anyway, this guest speaker spends his time on and off the clock doing research about saving the world; teaching collegiate courses on saving the world; writing, recording, and performing songs about saving the world; and traveling all over the country so that he can give save-the-world assemblies much like the one we heard that day to schoolkids of all ages.

His main message was this:  We must reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose.

That’s right.  He was so into it that he’d even created his own “re-" to tack onto the end of the well-known slogan, complete with a slideshow and a contest with free entry to all participants who wished to enter their repurposed arts and crafts made from all of the treasures found during their Dumpster diving excursions.

“But what if our parents won’t let us dig in other people’s trash?” one of the students asked, to the enthusiastic agreement of the 180 other kids who were vehemently nodding their heads at the injustice of those asshole parents who wouldn’t let them sift through random garbage.  [“Go ahead, sweetie!  Just try to avoid the crusty used needles!”]

“Ohhhhh,” said the man, matching the child’s wide-eyed expression, “but you must tell your parents how important this is!”

My son twisted his head all the way to the back of the gym, where I was sitting with the teachers, and met my eye.  I returned the silent question written all over his face with a stern look of my own and what I hoped was a slightly imperceptible—but still loud and clear to the boy—shake of my head.

No way.

The speaker began to merrily strum his guitar as a slideshow of previous contestants’ artwork played on the big white screen behind him.  I tried to act enthusiastic, I did.  But honestly? I couldn’t bring myself to clap along.

I leaned over to the teacher sitting next to me.  “My kids better not bring a damned 6-foot sculpture made out of rusty-ass hubcaps back to my house,” I whispered out of the side of my mouth.

She smiled politely but looked pointedly at the guest speaker, a silent message letting me know that we shouldn’t be rude and talk during his presentation. I took it as permission to go on.

“You know what I’d do,” I muttered, leaning closer because she kept trying to scoot away.  “I’d put that thing in the garage for a couple of weeks until they forgot about it, then right back to the goddamned landfill it’d go.”

My worries were unfounded, though, because although my son likes arts and crafts, he’s much more of an inventor.  And that little inventor’s brain had seized onto a very real, very tangible statistic that the speaker had reported:  If we continue in the same careless direction we’ve been going with our trash, our state’s landfills will be, well, full in 10 years.

Then what??  The speaker posed the dramatic question to the audience full of kids, who collectively sucked in their breaths.

I saw my son’s hand shoot straight into the air, and I knew he had an answer for the guest speaker.  But the man wasn’t actually looking for one—the question had been one of those food-for-thought rhetorical ones that had been posed only to prove his point—and he was already moving on to his next song, a catchy little ditty of doom and gloom that he performed with what looked like some fancy Irish jigging footwork.

At the end of the assembly, after we’d all applauded and an encore had been sung, I watched as my son, with his teacher’s permission, rushed the stage.  I couldn’t help it; I moved a bit closer so that I could listen to the exchange.  I might be kinda biased, but it’s always something awesome with my son. He’s funny and he’s smart, and most times he’s both at the same time without even meaning to be.

I could feel the pride and anticipation emanating from my little guy—by gosh, he’d just solved that pesky pollution problem that has plagued our world for countless numbers of years!  He was bound to be revered by all for his ingenuity in saving the world—maybe he’d even win the Nobel Peace Prize—after he shared his idea with this man in charge of saving the world. And it was so simple—the answer had been right in front of our very eyes for years.  How could no on have come up with it before?

My son’s eyes were huge.  His arms were flailing all about as he illustrated his vision.  “…so all you’d have to do,” I heard him say, his voice loud with excitement, “is build a really long steel chute that reaches out of this atmosphere.  And then you could just shoot all of that trash STRAIGHT INTO SPACE!”

I swear, you could see the poor guest speaker visibly deflate.  The entire point of his 90-minute assembly had been lost on my child.  It was almost as if all of the wisdom he’d attempted to impart had been flushed down the toilet.

Or shot into space through a steel chute.  (Dammit, I couldn’t help it.)

“But the whole point was—" the man started.  “—well, didn’t you hear all of that stuff about reducing, reusing…?  What about that monkey sock made out of…old socks?”

My son blinked.  He was still waiting to hear if his chute was a possibility. So had he saved the world or what?

The man sighed.  He tried a different tactic, and I could tell he’d given up—on this particular child, at least.  “Well, a chute like that would be really expensive,” he simply said.

My son’s eyes grew even wider. “No, I’ve thought that through, too!” he insisted.  “We would make it from repurposed materials!”

Honestly—and I’m totally not just saying this because he’s my son—a repurposed steel chute that shoots garbage into space sounds a hell of a lot more useful than a hubcap statue or a monkey sock made from stinky old graying socks.

See?  All was not lost on my boy.

I’m expecting him to save the world any old day now.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Daylight Saving Can Suck My Balls

The Monday after daylight saving, my 4-year-old son fell asleep on the couch at 4:30 PM, missing dinner, which was a family-sized frozen lasagna that was set to go off at about 5:10.  (My friends call me Martha Stewart, but really, I’m no better than any other mother who wants to give her children the best.)

“Uh-oh,” my husband murmured, his hands on his hips as he studied my sleeping boy.

I agreed.  We knew this could only mean trouble. After all, we’ve learned through experience not to try to wake either of our boys from a deep, much-needed sleep. 

One memory in particular stands out in my mind.  It was when, as a novice mother, I woke my older son (who was probably 3 at the time) from a nap because we had a midday birthday party to attend.  I remember he looked at me for about 2 seconds before his face crumpled and he began sobbing uncontrollably.

Mommy,” he said, “I don’t even know why I’m crying, but I can’t stop!”

It was pitiful, the poor guy.  And my younger son kind of reacts the same way.

The problem with my younger son falling asleep on the couch the other day was a little more intricate.  It had a few more layers.  Because, you see, long since the days of novice motherhood, I’ve gone back to full-time work. So when one of my kids falls asleep at 4:30 PM and refuses to get back up, my husband and I know that there’s going to be trouble anywhere between, oh, 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM, which are prime sleeping hours when one gets up at 5.

My husband, still looking at my son, shook his head and sighed.  “Hm.  We’d better not get too comfortable tonight.  Wonder when that volcano’s going to erupt.”

He was right.  Because on top of the really early bedtime was the missed dinner, which is a problem because my younger son is just like his mother; he doesn’t miss a meal.

There were times in high school when I would honestly forget to eat.  I was a studious kid, graduating number 8 in my class of 182—which pissed me off because I knew I could have been number one. Maybe if I had just skipped a few more meals to study.

In any case, I was often too busy studying to remember to eat, and many times I’d just grab what I called a “beef packet,” which was a Buddig brand—you guessed it—packet of beef.  I’d rip that sucker open, pour some milk into a coffee cup, and eat my breakfast on the way to school after having woken up at 5:00 AM to study.

(Incidentally, the moment I graduated high school and headed off to college, I found my freedom and a new best friend who taught me that taking vodka shots before tests about which we were nervous would make the tests not only seem easier—but also much more fun.  I earned my first-ever C that semester, prompting my dad to call me and say, “Shay?  Are you on drugs?” to which I responded, “I’ve tried pot a few times, but I didn’t like it.  I’ve just been drinking a lot, usually before Physics tests.”  “And your still getting a C…in Physics?” my dad asked. “Fair enough. Keep doing what you’re doing. Sounds like you’ve got it handled.”)

For years, it baffled me that no one could understand how one gets so busy that she forgets to eat. 

And then suddenly, the shift came, and I was one of those people who couldn’t understand it anymore, either.

“What do you mean, you forget to eat?” I asked, rolling my eyes at one of the mom friends I’d made just after I’d moved to a new town with my husband and new son.  “I’m constantly looking forward to my next meal.  In fact, usually as I’m taking bites of my lunch, I’m already dreaming about what I’m going to have for dinner.”

As soon as I said it, I gasped, causing a piece of chicken nugget to fall out of my mouth. I’d become one of those deplorable people who actually had time to eat.

And not only that, but goddammit, I looked forward to it.  Still do.

I have a habit of eating a few (okay, six) pieces of chocolate before I go to bed.  Once, I fell asleep on the couch before I’d had a chance to eat my nighttime chocolate.

Did I count all of those missed calories a win for my waistline?

Fuck, no.

I swear my biological chocolate clock woke me back up at 11:30 PM, and I stumbled to the kitchen, eyes half shut, and poured a glass of milk because that’s the best part of gnawing one’s way through a chocolate bar—the milk at the end.  And then I proceeded to do just that:  Snarf my way through half a bar of chocolate and wash it down with a cold glass of 2%.

I woke the next morning fat, happy—and a teensy bit ashamed. Ah, well.

My younger son, I’ve learned, will most likely not be a kid who forgets to eat, no matter how hard he studies.  He’s skipped that part of being just like me and gone straight to taking after the me of adulthood:  He loves to eat. (Fingers crossed that he skips the pot and shots part of being just like me, too.)

My husband and I had a rough start at having kids, and we take our jobs as parents very seriously.  Let me preface this next segment by saying that we make sure that our kids have healthy, balanced meals.  But while my older son craves fruits and vegetables and views meals as annoying but necessary interruptions to fuel his body between his intense digging and exploration time outside, my younger son is more like his mom.  He has an affinity for all things noodle and carb, and he looks forward to his meal breaks, sitting down with a huge, anticipatory grin at the food laid out in front of him.

Being the writer and helicopter mom that I am, I chronicle anything cute that my kids say.  Here, then, are a few things that my younger son has said regarding eating and food:
  • A couple of years ago, we were in the car on our way to preschool.  I was eating a microwaveable breakfast sandwich (on wheat bread, thankyouverymuch), and of course my younger son asked me for a bite.  I handed the sandwich back to him.

“OUCH!” I heard him yelp.

“What happened?” I asked, glancing in the rearview mirror.

“I bit my finger when I took a bite, Mommy…but I didn’t bite it off.”

“Well, thank the Lord for small blessings, son,” I sighed as I reached back for the remainder of my sandwich.  “Imagine trying to explain to any potential girlfriends that you lost it trying to get at your mom’s breakfast sandwich in preschool.”

“What, Mommy?”


·         Once, when he was about 3, he was sitting at the table eating lunch.  He stopped chewing for a moment and looked up at me.  “Mommy?” he said.  “My teeth are tired.”

And I remember thinking, Holy shit.  Did he just exhaust himself from eating?  Apparently not, though, because after a quick break during which he flexed those little jaws, he dove right back into that mac and cheese like a BOSS.

·         Last summer he looked at me and said, quite simply, “Mommy, my belly is hungry.  It wants to eat all the food.”

And I thought to myself, Just another way that another one of my boys is exactly like me.  Because I always want to eat all the food.

·         For about 3 months last fall, both of my boys had a habit of climbing into bed with my husband and me sometime in the middle of the night.  It was something that happened almost nightly, which I totally didn’t mind because I knew it wouldn’t last forever (they’ve already stopped doing it—insert sad emoji), and I swear I savor every minute of them being young. 

I woke in the morning to my younger son’s wide, adorable face grinning on the pillow next to mine.

It was the most bizarre thing: this huge, laughing grin complete with happy sighs and chuckles—yet he was still sound asleep.  I thought to myself, as parents often do, “I wonder what he’s dreaming about.  It must be a damn good dream; what’s making him so happy?”

And then he answered my question when he talked in his sleep: “Did you get one in your lunch, too?”

My son had been dreaming about lunchtime with his friends at preschool.  If I had to take a guess, I’d bet my life savings that he’d been dreaming about Little Debbie snack cakes.  Once or twice a week, I’ll pack one of those in his lunch as a treat.

  •  Then there was the time that he’d had pancakes for breakfast, veggies and dip and a cookie for snack, and cheese, carrots, and an orange for lunch. I know all of this because I wrote it down.  I was thinking we could get him into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Before I had a chance to fill out the application form, however, my son reached across the table to my lunch, took a few bites, and then ask me for a powdered donut, which I hadn’t even been aware that we’d had.

“Why, sure, son,” I responded.  “We wouldn't want you to be deprived.”
  • And lastly, one night I put my boys to bed, only to hear the pitter-patter of little feet about an hour and a half later.  Of course I was in the kitchen rifling through drawers for my nighttime chocolate when I looked up and saw my younger son coming around the corner.

He looked at me, cocked his head, and said, “Hey, Mommy.  Let’s eat some food.”

I shrugged.  Nodded.  “Okay,” I said, because really, it sounded like a good plan to me.

So the other night when he fell asleep at 4:30 PM due to that goddamned daylight saving time shifting our internal clocks, I slept with one eye open because my husband and I knew that there would be repercussions at some point in the night or very early morning.

And we were right.  At about 2:00 AM, I heard it. That metaphorical volcano erupting in the form of a rumbling stomach.

It was soft at first—so soft that I thought I might be dreaming.  But then I heard it again—a bit more insistent this time—and slowly opened my eyes.

My son was in my bed, sort of kneeling over me so he could look down at my face as I woke.  When I finally opened my eyes, I saw that his were wide in kind of a curious, excited way.  He knew something was off; why was he so wide awake when it was still so dark outside?

My husband grunted and then heaved himself off of the bed to move to the couch, leaving me to deal with the situation.  Smart man.

“MOMMY?” my 4-year-old said in his adorable—LOUD—squeaky voice.

Before I had a chance to answer, he continued.

“I’m really hungry for a cheeseburger.  And a hot dog.  Will you fix them for me?”

I started laughing. My son smiled, although he wasn’t sure exactly what was so funny.  I heard his stomach growl again.

“Mommy?” he said again.  “I’m really hungry for a cheeseburger and a hot dog.  Is it wake-up time?  Will you fix them for me?”

Somehow I managed to hold him off until 4:30 AM, at which point I was able to talk him into going into the living room and asking his dad to make him breakfast.  His dad did.

I missed my early-morning workout that day, and it threw me all off, making me wish I’d have been the one to have missed my dinner the night before.

Do you know how a Type A scheduler reacts to her schedule being all jacked up?

Not well, peeps. Not well.  I was tired that day.  And grumpy.

And I’m not totally sure that I’m back to normal yet, so let me say it again:

Daylight saving can suck my balls.