Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Where are Mommy's Pants?

For the month of September I am doing a daily photo challenge issued by Kim of Let Me Start By Saying... Today's challenge was the word "Old"... and at the end of this experience that's exactly what I felt. You can see today's photo and others by following The Pirate Mommy on Instagram, and you can participate in the challenge by following The Kim Bongiorno

A book for all ages!

If I were going to sit down and write a children's book right now I would surely call it Where are Mommy's Pants?. They say "write what you know", and right now that is the question at the forefront of my mind. Where the hell are my pants... or any pants that might work, for that matter? Because they sure aren't in my closet, and thus far they don't appear to be in a store near me, either.

I hate pants shopping. I hate shopping for pants the way some women hate swimsuit shopping. I wear my jeans into the ground, sucking every last strand of stretchy denimy goodness out of them until at last I have to contend with the fact that I look like either A: a stereotypical "homeless person" advertisement, B: a hooker, or, sometimes even C: a stereotypical homeless hooker. That's where I'm sitting at right now. I swore that this time last fall I had at least five pairs of jeans... at least! So why is it that I'm staring at one solitary piece of below the calf denim in my closet? And that piece, naturally, is the "artfully" torn designer jeans that have moved from "a hint of sexy" to "Dear God, woman, cover that up!" No longer do I give the barest hint of tanned flesh playing peek-a-boo through the thick mesh of  "distressed" denim strings. Now it's more like pale fish belly slapped beneath a tic-tac-toe board that stretches nine inches up each thigh. You can follow the ever-visible veins that run up my legs like a sad little road map if you look closely enough. Please... please don't look that close.

So it's not like I have much of a choice here. I have to wear pants, at least in public and according to my spouse and children. And with my Bad Ass Chickcation to New Orleans coming up in ONE MONTH I can't even wait for my knees to get frostbitten. So today I took advantage of the fact that both kids were in school, fortified my courage with a double shot skinny mocha WITH whipped cream (don't laugh.. give me skim milk but dammit you'd better add that delicious whipped cream), and went Shopping. I can vaguely recall actually enjoying shopping, back when it meant a delicious, leisurely afternoon away from being a nurturing, loving, butt-wiping, handwashing, Dora watching Mommy. It meant ME time, quiet time, time where I could examine the way the denim fit to every curve and contemplate whether or not it was the right look for me (as if I had any other "look" than "exhausted and quite probably covered in peas")... as opposed to wildly grabbing underwear, ANY underwear and throwing it in the cart while the baby screamed and the preschooler tried bras on his head. Almost a decade later, though, it's legal to actually leave the children at home and go by myself and shopping isn't quite the luxury it once was. Honestly, it's becoming more and more like a trip into a hostile and forbidden territory.

I walk through the store towards what I presume is the women's department... or misses... or whatever they're calling clothes made for female humans over the age of 25. It's no secret that I can't dress myself, but surely I can buy cute jeans that fit, right? Surely I can do this one thing and come out okay.

This is where I pause for you to laugh. It's okay. 

There are approximately 472 different kinds of jeans here, and none of them appear to be anything remotely close to what I'm actually looking for. There are jeans with giant rhinestone... what are those, lizards? Are we putting reptiles on our asses now, ladies? Is that what we're doing? There are "distressed" jeans, which I have learned means I will look like a Solicitation Arrest Near You in about three washes. There are jeggings.. who the hell ever thought that was a good idea?  Low rise. Lower rise. Low rise boot cut. Low rise skinny boot cut. Low rise distressed skinny pumpkin spice boot-and-stiletto cut. I look for something that rises above my pubic bone and fail. I'm what you might call an "hourglass" figure... except I don't just have a little junk in the trunk, I've got one of those bags you throw up on the roof rack too. Low rise means I will spend every moving moment yanking up my pants, and every seated moment praying that I'm not flashing my ass to every room mom in the PTA. No.  I'm not asking too much, am I? All I want is a pair (or four) of jeans that fit well, are comfortable, trendy but not ridiculous, and won't create the need to borrow against the 401(k). Is that being unreasonable? Am I getting too old to buy cute jeans?

 I search the store for someone, anyone who might be able to light the way. Maybe there's a secret section I don't know about, a special, hidden place where women like me can find the pants of their dreams. It will have oversized dressing rooms with enough hooks for the clothes you want to try on AND your purse. It will smell like freshly roasted coffee beans and the lighting will be good. Denim will overflow from racks and shelves, jeans that are made to embrace curves,  with waistlines that hit a few degrees north of requiring mandatory waxing. And there will be 80s and 90s hits on the speakers, mixed with the occasional sassy late 70s hit. I could try on jeans to "It's Raining Men"... that would be okay.

What, or rather who I find is Cindra, who appears to be the only person working in the store. In between helping a mom whose toddler is wearing a thong like a Spiderman mask, and putting clearance tags on a rack of sequined bikinis, she directs me to one lonely rack of denim that is almost absorbed into the Maternity section. Fitting. I approach cautiously, searching for keywords like "classic", "stretch", and "mid-rise". There are two pair that meet the criteria and have the dubious honor of coming in my size. I scoop them up and haul them to the fitting room. Under the unforgiving flourescent lighting they fit well enough; nothing is hanging out or over. They're plain, but that's okay I guess. I try to imagine them with something other than ratty flip flops and an old t-shirt. Once I'm back in my own shorts I glance at the price tag and actually wince. Seriously? For plain, unadorned denim? Really? Does the amount of fabric required to cover one's butt crack really drive the price up that much? Is the price worth not having to keep looking?

I'm still musing on that last one when Cindra checks to see if my blank stare means I'm thinking or having some kind of medical incident. I hold up the jeans and shrug. "Just deciding." She offers me a reassuring smile and says with unmatched enthusiasm "Those are GREAT jeans. They're all my Grandma will wear!"

So.... I can make low rise work with a belt, right? 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Chemical Warfare

With Summer drawing to an end, most mornings at our house begin the same, a pile of warm, sleepy bodies tangled up like puppies as we try and decide what we're doing with the day. "Swimming?" "Too crowded." "Library?" "I haven't finished my books yet." "Back to school shopping?" "..... *tortured glare*...." Yesterday, however, was different.

"Mom, my head itches."  You heard the ominous music, too, didn't you?

Ever since the Great Head Lice Epidemic of Last Fall, in which the entire third grade was practically mobile with the things, we've been gun shy. An errant twitch brings back my Head Lice PTSD and suddenly it's Late September and an evening haircut has gone SERIOUSLY WRONG, and the Flake is out of town , and I have no idea what I'm doing, and DEAR GOD I HAVE TO BE IN NEW ORLEANS IN THREE DAYS, I CAN NOT BE CARRYING THE CAST OF "A BUGS LIFE" ON MY HEAD. But the Z's statement didn't trigger any of this. His hair is thick and shaggy, in desperate need of a back to school cut. It's hot, he gets sweaty, his head itches. NBD. But to appease him, I dug out a leftover, unused lice comb, all ready to pat him on the back and promise a haircut later in the day.

The music just got louder, didn't it? Because no such promises were made, there would be no haircuts or back to school shopping or anything even remotely approaching fun... that is unless your idea of painstakingly examining EVERY SINGLE HAIR on the head of a 9 year old is fun. As I stared at the comb, little brown dots mocking me from inside the narrow tines, all I could think was What the hell? We haven't been ANYWHERE. We've been practically reclusive the past few weeks! The question plagued me as I filled a shopping cart with shampoos, new pillows, and enough guacamole to  appease happy hour at Mi Gusto Grande Rancho Cantina*. When I'm stressed I like guacamole. And then the phone rang and all of my questions were answered. One kid, the only kid who had been inside my house besides my own in two weeks, was my undoing. One Saturday morning visitor with a raging case of undetected head cooties.

Her mom was mortified, but please. Head lice, while a massive pain in the ass, isn't something to be embarrassed about. It happens. Besides, I had my doubts that ONE kid dropping by for fifteen minutes on a Saturday afternoon could really turn our heads into a veritable nursery. It was like an episode of "I didn't even know I was pregnant" up in there. But, according to our pediatrician, it was totally possible. "Oh yeah," she chuckled. "You get a couple of mature over achievers that make the move onto your head and 36 hours is more than enough time to get things going."

Great. I had the freaking Rhodes Scholars of head lice setting up shop.

So I laid waste to the house (the Flake had already high tailed it out on a business trip... how the HELL has he gotten out of this twice now? He spent the evening drinking a glass of wine and treating his own hair while watching baseball.  I tried not to sneak tequila shots while strapping my 9 year old to the chair while he screamed "JUST SHAVE MY HEAD AND BE DONE WITH THE AGONY!").  I bagged every pillow, every sock monkey, and stored them in the shed. I stripped every bed and vacuumed every mattress. And I waged direct chemical warfare on the sweet, sweet heads of my children. No hair uncombed. No bug left standing... or, um, crawling. Or whatever.  This is under control.

But if it happens again? We're shaving our heads and burning the house down. No doubt.

*Mi Gusto Grande Rancho Cantina is not a real restaurant. But it should be. I bet they'd have great guacamole. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No more Minivan Mama

Standing in a cold spring rain, I took one last look inside my old, white minivan. The papers had been signed, the deal was complete. All that was left was to check under the seats and in the back one last time for any "personal effects." That's what the salesman called them, those bits of life's shrapnel scattered here and there. A new era had dawned and, for the first time in eight years, I was no longer a minivan Mama.

I pocketed the Tic Tacs from the center console and dislodged yet another baseball from underneath the passenger seat. Eight years is a long time to hang onto a car these days, especially one as beat up and, frankly, ugly as our van. There was a huge dent in one side from a careless driver, one of the plastic pieces had popped off a seat bottom, and the pervasive scent of Baseball Boy Funk you could never quite Febreeze out. I remembered the first time we saw it, the trepidation I felt as we pulled into the car lot in Oklahoma City. A minivan? Seriously? I couldn't see myself as that kind of Mom. I drove sports cars and cute little SUVs, like the one we'd piloted into the lot. It held the batbag and stroller just fine, thank you. It did not, however, hold seven people and their luggage for a 16-hour drive to Ohio, a trek we were slated to make in mere weeks for a family wedding. The salesman cajoled me with the Stow-n-Go, the dual temperature controls, the extra outlets in the back. I could see my future playing out before my eyes, the reality of being the mother of two very active little boys meshing with the convenience of this white monstrosity. "If we can get a DVD player installed," I heard myself saying, "I'm fine with it." Because let's face it- I was done listening to The Flake's stories about how when HE had to ride from Los Angeles to Kansas every summer all HE had were two MAD magazines and a stick to occupy himself. Screw that noise and pass me another Disney movie. As I doled out more Goldfish to an ever impatient six year old and his near-the-brink baby brother while the paperwork was "processed", I realized the truth: I was a minivan mom. Truth be told, I was before I even stepped foot on the lot. I just didn't know it yet.

We made the 16-hour drive to Ohio, our family, grandparents, and an uncle all comfortably marveling over the space, the ease, the fact that you could hook the XBox up to the DVD player and play Madden 05 while crusing along I-70 at 75mph. Technology! It didn't take long for me to embrace the minivan culture. Zoo excursions with the playgroup became carpool affairs. Ice cream trips after ballgames meant three or four friends giggling in the backseat. Stowed seats made room for clunky wagons, and there was no more wrestling oversized strollers into the trunk. The minivan life? It wasn't so bad.

It became the go-to for Girls' Night and getaway weekends, six friends piled in for a night on the town, joking about watching bad porn on the DVD player. We flipped down the seats for tailgates, loading cooler after cooler, canopies, chairs, and a mini-grill. We discovered that you could easily pack a 6-person tent, canopy, three gravity chairs, three bag chairs, grill, four coolers, and suitcases for three women going on a five day Camp-and-Concert excursion in northern Minnesota. The van hauled Christmas trees and birthday bikes. It was loaded up with flats of flowers and bags of mulch as we set about the nebulous task of giving our home what the realtor called "curb appeal". It was loaded down with our most prized possessions, the ones we didn't want the moving company to handle, when we made a 300 mile move to Kansas City. It was the first thing we unloaded at our new home. It has driven a thousand miles to and from ballparks. It has housed bat bags and shoulder pads, pool floats and snow sleds. A hundred on-the-go meals have been eaten in it's seats, from Dallas to Minneapolis. It didn't like to start in cold weather... ever. It's gas mileage was suspect. Did I mention that it kinda smelled? But it was ours... through thick and through thin, it was ours.

But now it isn't. As I checked the glovebox one last time, it's replacement smoothly slid into the parking space beside me. It is as new as the van was once upon a time, no owners until now. It's leather seats hold no Cheez-it dust or sunflower seeds, it's floormats are not only pristine- they're all there. It doesn't have a DVD player, but it has in dash navigation, traffic, and weather, satellite radio, a five disc changer, and the ability to sync to my phone with Bluetooth. It SMELLS GOOD. It gets 50 miles to the gallon yet looks like a sportscar. It is sleek, it is new, and it is HOT. It doesn't even require a key to start, just push a button. It only seats five, four if you want to be REALLY comfortable, but that's okay. My boys are no longer little bitty with big needs. One will be learning to drive in a few short months as it is. We don't travel in packs any longer, and for entertainment the boys have phones and tablets and chapter books at their disposal. The minivan time has passed. It is time for it... and me... to accept that and move on.

Yet as excited as I am for our new purchase (it really is beautiful, by far the finest car we've ever owned), I'm sad. It's hard to leave behind this piece of my life, covered with it's sports stickers, honor roll paraphernalia,  and memories of vacations past. Saying goodbye to the van means saying goodbye to that piece of my life, acknowledging that time has moved on and we have outgrown it's benefits. There are no more carseats left to buckle, no more bulky strollers or chunky wagons to maneuver. I am not the mother of babies any longer... but the mother of young men. Young men have a habit of growing up, moving on, and there's not a whole lot I can do about that but smile through the tears and embrace it.

With an air of finality I shut the van's door one last time and hand the keys to the salesman. It isn't mine anymore. I pull my "Support Pirates" magnet off the back and give it a final pat on the bumper. I hope they fix the door and give it a good cleaning before putting it on the lot. Maybe THEY can get the boy-smell out. I hope it finds it's way to another family, one needing more room for carseats and soccer bags and clunky wagons and bulky strollers, and I hope they cover the back with honor roll proclamations and sports stickers. I hope they find a way to cajole it into starting on cold winter days. I hope all of this as I slowly back out of the parking space, stealing one last look at our past before heading out onto the highway and out into the life that lies ahead.... and really, pretty excited about the gas mileage we're going to get while getting there.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The 10 Kinds of People You'll Meet at the School Carnival

School carnival season is upon us. If they haven't already, your child's school is likely about to begin bombarding you (via your child) with requests for baked goods, candy, and, of course, volunteers. There will be e-mails about themes. There will be notes sent home about when you can pre-purchase tickets to avoid the ungodly lines on Carnival night. There will be stickers affixed to every piece of clothing. God help us if you miss one; you can't get that crap off for love or money. 

My kids have always loved the school carnival. It's not the hokey games or cheap prizes. It's not the hot dogs and ice cream served up in the cafeteria. I think it's the idea of being in school, after hours, roaming the hallways with their friends. Even Ace gets bummed when he can't go back to his old stomping grounds and marvel about how LITTLE everything looks. 

So get ready, parents... it's time to bust out the wallet and the pre-packaged brownies and put on your happy face so you're ready for the TEN KINDS OF PEOPLE YOU'LL MEET AT THE SCHOOL CARNIVAL.

1. THE OVERWORKED TEACHER: What time is it? Five? Seven? Have we reached midnight yet? The Overworked Teacher has no idea. Time has somehow stopped. It may be moving backwards. All they know is that they arrived at the building at 7:30am and have not left. Aside from the twenty minutes when he was able to shove a half scalding, half frozen microwave burrito down his throat and chase it with some leftover Sunny D, there hasn't been a moment of peace. But somehow, even after twelve hours, he has a smile plastered on his face as children hurl themselves in his direction, delighted over the idea that IT IS AFTER SCHOOL ON A FRIDAY AND THE TEACHER IS STILL HERE! The Overworked Teacher is a saint. Make a mental note to give them something extra special during Teacher Appreciation Week... because money says they'll work the next Carnival too. And the next... and the next... and the next....

2. THE FAMILY THAT HAS PLAYED (AND WON) THE CAKEWALK SIX TIMES NOW: Are you running a mission service out of your home? Are you rebuilding your kitchen and currently unable to cook? Does your family require a high sugar dosage every fifteen minutes or someone may keel over? No? Then why the HELL DO YOU KEEP PLAYING THE DAMNED CAKEWALK? You've got SIX TRAYS OF BROWNIES that you're balancing in your hands. Six. You have two children under the age of 8. I understand that your kids loooooooove the cake walk. That's fine. So does mine. So do the other 578 kids that are waiting in line. Teach them about sharing and go try the freaking Chuck a Puck. 

3. THE MARAUDING GANG OF MIDDLE SCHOOLERS. Like, OMG, do you remember when we were THAT SMALL? Like LAST YEAR? OMG, no wai! WAI! 'Sup, y'all, we're back and we're in a large, adorably imposing gang, a gang with swagger and a fistfull of tickets. Ah, middle schoolers. Half of them have younger siblings still in attendance. The other half were dropped off at the front doors by their parents with admonishments to "behave". They've ganged up, and now these swirling hormonal masses are oozing down the hallways, loud and obnoxious and REALLY hoping that all of their former teachers can see how much BIGGER they are. If you can tolerate the pervasive cloud of AXE that hovers over them like toxic fallout you'll notice that, for as obnoxious and, well, stupid as they act... they're still just babies. 

4. THE HIGH SCHOOLERS THAT ARE SOOOOOOO IN LOVE. They first met in kindergarten. She was playing Legos. He wanted the wheels, so he took them. She cried. It was magic. They drifted in and out of each other's lives like so many pencil shavings until one day.... it happened. Now they're sixteen, in love, and reliving the glory of those early years. They won't buy any tickets... they don't want to play the games or eat the food. They're just going to hold hands and stroll the halls, stopping to chat with old teachers and gaze in loving wonder into each other's eyes.... while taking a selfie in front of the Dr. Seuss mural in the third grade hall. Beautiful. 

5. THE FAMILY WHOSE KIDS ARE ALL TOO YOUNG TO BE THERE: Look, Timmy! This is where you'll go to school in three years! No, the books aren't for you! No, you can't take all the toys! No, dioramas are not for eating! I give props to families who work hard to prep their kids for school and want to show them how much fun they'll have. There's actually a lot for the kids to do at a school carnival, even when you're not out of Pull Ups yet- the duck pond, face painting, coloring, the cakewalk (if you can get that DAMNED FAMILY TO GET OUT OF YOUR WAY... wait, is that... is that SEVEN trays of brownies? I will cut a bitch...). But you have to remember... the carnival is geared towards the kids who actually GO to the school. So no, there probably aren't a lot of toys appropriate for your two year old. And no, Timmy can't have forty seven more tries because he's three and can't throw the football into the hole but he really wants an inflatable bat. Trust the rest of us when we say you really don't want him to have that inflatable bat anyways. 

6. THE BLIND EYES: Did your kid just smack me upside the head with an inflatable bat? Your NINE year old kid? And then did he just shove two first graders aside so he could get in line in front of them. Dude, did he just SPIT his hot dog at that girl? What do you mean "not my child"? Are you blind? Wait, sorry. Yes you are. Look, I hate to break this to you... but your kid is an asshole. While you were smiling contentedly and basking in your belief that Little Dearest is truly the greatest thing ever to happen to not only this school, but this community, he shoved down three kindergarteners to cut in line, stole five pieces of candy, and then shanked a grandma with his pencil prize. When people are repeatedly trying to use their "nice" voices and explaining that your demon spawn PROBABLY had something to do with the bleeding five year old, stop playing indignantly stupid and put a leash on that thing. 

7. THE JUDGEMENTAL VOLUNTEER. You couldn't help out this year. Sometimes that's the way the ball bounces. Everyone else understands... except Judy. Judy raises an eyebrow when you walk into her game with your Sprout. "I thought you were "busy" tonight! How nice that you could make it!" Oh, she's good. When you explain that the other parent had other obligations so it's just you and Sprout for the evening, she'll nod and launch into a commiserating story about how Jim is brokering an international peace treaty so she just brought Junior and Junior Miss along with her... see how they're coloring in the corner until her shift is over? Despite the fact that you KNOW the other 99.9% of the PTA gets it, you'll still leave feeling the need to write a letter of apology for your slackerdom. Judy wins every time. 

8. THE NEWLY DIVORCED PARENTS. Nothing rocks an elementary school like an unexpected split, and the school carnival is like feeding time at the zoo. Will both parents come and be cordial for the kids' sake? Are they really still friends? When those people show up, there's about two minutes of wonder and then it's just boring. They just blend into the crowd. It's when Mom brings the kids and Dad picks them up and he hisses that she shouldn't have bought so many tickets and he just wants to get out of there, and she hisses that he was supposed to be there twenty minutes ago and the kids were getting anxious so of COURSE she bought more tickets to occupy them,  and the bystanders pretend to look in different directions.... it's then that you realize that we're all a bunch of bloodthirsty jackels and you get kind of embarrassed for yourself and everyone around you. Be the good guy and call the poor kids over and act like you didn't hear but just really wanted to tell them how awesome their artwork on the wall was.  

9. THE LAST MINUTE, 8-7 PARENT. They're racing in the door, the kids ready to party, the parents looking like they need a good night's sleep AFTER a shot of something strong (and I'm not talking about the kool-aid). They stand out from the rest of the crowd because unlike those who got off work at a reasonable hour and had time to change into jeans and a comfortable sweatshirt espousing team spirit, they JUST got off work. Mom is still in her scrubs after a 7-7 at the hospital. Dad is rubbing his eyes and sporting some serious 7 o'clock shadow on his face. But they're there, and that's all that matters, even when the most they can muster is to sit in the cafeteria sipping watery lemonade and letting the kids endlessly enter the raffles. They made it like they promised... but don't judge if they take a little nap, okay? Please?   

10. THE TEACHER STALKER. All night long her eyes are roving, and God help the teacher that falls into her sights. It doesn't matter that Mrs. Smith is running the ring toss... The Stalker is going to want to discuss, RIGHT THERE, Little Kathy's problems with long division and what Mrs. Smith can do to help. It doesn't matter that it's 7pm on a Friday night and Mr. Jones is off the clock and with his kids eating cotton candy, The Stalker wants to talk about Brian's 8th grade Science report and how he can bring his grade up. The Stalker doesn't want to hear about office hours and conferences. The Stalker has no regard for your personal life: when you signed up for that $32,000 a year, "summers off" racket, you gave away your right to personal time, Mister! Now, stop talking to your child and come tell me what you're going to do to help Melody make sure she keeps that 4.0!

So practice your toilet paper tossing and your paper chain making skills and get ready to have some fun... even if you don't score some brownies. It's all for a good cause.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza

It's that time of year again, which in our house means baseball season. For the next four months my laundry will never be done, my car interior will sport a persistant cover of infield dirt and sunflower seed shells, and I will find cups in the oddest and most disconcerting of places. And by cups I do NOT mean beverage containers. 

I'm not going to lie, though- I love it. I more than love it, I FREAKING love it. I love long days at the baseball park with the sun on my face. I love it when the concession stand NAILS the nacho cheese, giving it that slight bit of jalapeno heat that separates the merely average neon orange glop from the truly superior ballpark Nacho. I love looking at my feet after a breezy weekend and thinking "Damn, look at that flip flop tan!" only to realize in the summer that it's not a tan, it's DIRT from the infield that has turned into a resiliant kind of paste when mixed with sweat and the perspiration off an overpriced, underfilled cup of flat Diet Coke. I love smelling like sweat, expired sunscreen that I found in the bottom of my bag, and the aforementioned nacho cheese. Being a baseball mom is a particular way of life. 

Or maybe I get too into it. There's that possibility too. To be honest, I make most of it up along the way, kind of like how I parent, how I cook, and how I explain tricky subjects like reproduction, or the NSA. We pretty much fell into being sports parents without realizing what we were doing or what was going on. All we knew was that, when the Ace was three, he saw some kids playing organized football at the park and said "I wanna do that someday." When he was four he said the same thing... so that fall we signed him up. 

It was so cute... he was so excited! We waited in line to sign paperwork, and then to get his equipment. They handed me his helmet... that sweet little helmet! The mouthguard! Precious! The pads for his pants... oh, the little pants! The shoulder pads... wait, shoulder pads in flag football? The big guy behind the table tried to hold back the laughter but couldn't quite. "We don't play flag football here. It's all tackle." Tackle football... at age four? Seriously? Have you ever seen four year olds play tackle football in all of that equipment? They kind of run into each other and then everyone falls down and flails around like a turtle on it's back until the coaches run out and pull them all upright again. It's painfully adorable.  But he survived, and in the spring he played t-ball with his football teammates, and thus began the cycle we've been in for the past ten years: Football, Holidays, Baseball, take a quick summer vacation because now it's time for football again. I haven't bought a single item of clothing in the past ten years based on something other than it's resiliancy to dirt and how closely it matches our team colors. 

We sit in the stands every weekend, talking to other parents, cheering, or, in my case, furiously sucking on Tootsie Pops to keep from hissing at the umpire. What I've learned from those conversations is that I'm pretty sure we're in the minority when it comes to competitive sports parents. It seems like everyone else has had their own glory days in high school or college. They've passed on their stunning athletic genes to their children. They have this interlaced community of Former Athletes That Are Now Parents and Coaches that gather around the concession stands to discuss who is doing what while they wait for their nachos. 

My kids.... okay, my kids are lucky they can walk more than ten feet without falling over themselves, and even that can be a toss up some days. The Flake at least has a smidgeon of athletic history... he used to run (and run fast... that bastard would say "I'm going out for a two mile run!" and before I even had a chance to swallow that first mouthful of Emergency Chocolate I Pretend I Don't Have, he was trotting back into the house all vibrant and healthy and happy and shit.) Beyond that, though, he had nothing.... well, except stories that tended to go "Yeah, I started Little League when we lived in California, but then my dad got orders to Iceland and when I got there a windstorm picked up the left fielder and deposited him somewhere in downtown Reykjavic, so we didn't play anymore. That, and, you know, the Russians." I swear, it was always the Russians. 

As for me? I didn't play softball or soccer. I wasn't on the swim team. I took dance lessons. Let me rephrase that... I ENDURED dance lessons... or rather, more appropriately, dance lessons endured me. I liked it, the leotard and the soft ballet slippers and tap class where you'd get to do flaps across the wood floor in a very loud, very satisfying way. But I was NOT a dancer. I was cute. I was smart. I had gorgeous, ridiculously long hair that looked awesome on recital night courtesey of sponge rollers and spending the day sitting still. However, despite what the people at LA Looks tried to tell me, great hair DID NOT IMPROVE MY DANCE ABILITY. OK, LA Looks never said that, but they DID say I could be whatever I wanted to be, and that was a freaking LIE. 

The worst was tumbling time, the dreaded blue-and-dingy-white mat of shame! We'd pull it out, straightening it in the middle of the wooden floor before going to line up at one end, eight little Mary Lou's.... and me. All the time I was thinking "Can't we just do some more of those flaps? That's fun, right? That noise it makes is pretty awesome!" Meanwhile my classmates were, in their graceful, coltish, seven year old ways, effortlessly cartwheeling and round-offing across the mat. My palms would sweat. My heart would pound. One after the other they'd flip flop across the room while I was having a little nervous breakdown. Finally it was my turn. I'd take a deep breath and stand with my toes touching the edge of the mat. My arms would raise, my eyes would focus....

And I'd do a somersault. A crooked somersault. And not really a somersault either, kind of a sideways roll that somehow ended up with my braid in my mouth and my leotard forty-seven miles up my butt. It didn't end at one, either... I HAD TO SOMERFLOP ACROSS THE ENTIRE MAT. 

Oh, the humanity. 

So maybe my boys got their athleticism from their father... who knows how far he would have gone in baseball if not for the wind and, you know, the Russians? I will stick with taking claim for their dazzling wit and ability to quote entire sections of Muppet Movies. I haven't made them do any tumbling to see where they stand on that... it's for everyone's safety, really. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Krewe of Lego

It's no secret that I love New Orleans, especially during Carnival season. I love the sights, the sounds, the throws,the crowds, and the whole crazy atmosphere. 

One of my bucket list items is to march in a parade... And my sorta-secret wish is to ride with the Krewe of Muses someday. I want to glitter shoes and toss them to the crowd. I am a BEAST with a bottle of glue and a vat of glitter. 

I won't make it to any of the parades in 2014. I'm determined to be there again in 2015. So this year I just lived out my fantasy on a smaller scale...

My Life In Legos: Mardi Gras Muses

Friday, February 14, 2014

Right Here Waiting for My Delivery- Tales of a 6th Grade Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day, and personally, I don't care if you love it, loathe it, or really don't give a damn. It's here, let's deal with it, and let's do that by letting me tell the story of my 6th grade Valentine's Day.

February 14, 1989. It's a Tuesday... that means it's a school day. This was before everyone's panties were in such a bunch over how kids should "express" themselves on Valentine's Day and the logistics of bringing balloons and packages and flowers and crap onto the buses... and before SOME kids were such open boogersnots to those in authority. Look, in 1989 if Frank the Bus Driver told you to sit your happy little butt back down and get control of your roses/balloons/giant chocolate panda bear you DID it... because if Frank the Bus Driver had to tell you again? Well... God have mercy on your soul.

What this means is that in 1989 at my middle school the hormones were in full bloom and so were the acres of roses, balloons, and teddy bears deposited in the tiny school office every February 14th.

I'd heard tales. I'd heard about how the florists made trip after trip, how the office overflowed with tokens of love purchased by the mothers of twelve and thirteen year old boys who, let's be honest, had no clue nor interest. Mothers of twelve and thirteen year old boys understand... after all, we're wishing someone would take our OWN husbands shopping.* Oh, I'd heard... and you know what? I had a boyfriend. I had a boyfriend for VALENTINE'S DAY. 


OK, I don't know if you can really call "dating" in middle school dating. What it was, mostly, was two people of opposite genders calling each other on the phone and then not really talking.... and seeing each other in the hall and saying "Hey!" in a somewhat happier tone than we might otherwise use. The real romance happened in the notes girls wrote back and forth to each other absolutely swooning over the FEELING put into that last "hey". And when he'd stop by your locker to say "hey" in the morning? Before class? Well someone turn on the Richard Marx, 'cause baby he was RIGHT THERE WAITING FOR YOU. 

I'll pause here while every woman of a certain age sings the chorus. You know you are.

The protocol at my middle school was simple- hands off until the end of the day. During homeroom/clubs (held during the last half hour of the day) the office secretary would make final announcements and then list off any students who had "items" waiting in the office. Any other day you didn't pay attention, unless it was your birthday and you had the parents that sent balloons and giant cookies and teddy bears. But Valentine's Day? On Valentine's Day EVERYONE listened. If you had a boyfriend you listened with a certain smugness. If you had a crush, you listened with EVERYTHING IN YOUR SOUL CROSSED THAT YOU WOULD HEAR YOUR NAME AND ZOMG! If you were single you kept talking to your friends and pretending NOT to listen (but you so totally were)  unless you had those parents that not only sent you balloons and giant cookies and teddy bears on your birthday but also for every other holiday ("Oh, look Jim! Let's send this Tree shaped balloon with Blue Jay conservation cookie to Suzie for Arbor Day!"). On February 14, 1989 I sat back in my desk, all prepared to give my friends the wide eyed "*I* have something? Me????? On Valentine's Day????" look... because I KNEW. Not only did I have A BOYFRIEND but said boyfriend had told me that he and his mom went out the night before and got "something" for me. I'd kept that little nugget to myself all day long, just waiting... waiting.

The list was long.... even though my last name started with "E" I knew it would be a while... Anderson... Brewer.... Coffman.... Drake... Fisher... wait. Back up. My friends were still half listening along, no squeal, no shocked looks. Maybe they were going by grade? Then another sixth grader squealed, right before an eighth grader and that wiped that idea out of the books. This had to  be a mistake... SURELY IT WAS A MISTAKE. I mean, he'd told me! He'd told me he and his mom had picked something out and it was being delivered. He meant here, right? Not my house? did he even know where I lived?

There had to be a mistake. So when the final bell rang I gathered up my things and marched down to the office, friends in tow. One had to pick up her balloons, giant cookie, and teddy bear anyway so it would be so simple for me to slip in and point out the... well, the whatever with my name on it that had been overlooked. The hall was filled with squealing girls and boys who just really wanted to go play basketball in the gym but whose mothers had told them to BE NICE. While my friend found her stuff I stepped into the quiet of the office.

"Excuse me." I wasn't the least bit shy or concerned. I KNEW it was just a simple mistake. "There's supposed to be something here for me. From my boyfriend." Emphasis on boyfriend. Because I HAD ONE. The secretary checked the list she had. No, nothing with my name on it. Maybe his name had been entered instead? No, nothing. Was there anything that hadn't been logged in yet? That they'd just read names off of? Anything?

Of course not. Oh the pre-teen HUMANITY.

I slipped out of the office, not sure if I was pissed off or sad or if I even really cared except that... that... I had a BOYFRIEND and I was supposed to get SOMETHING and my  name was going to be read OVER THE INTERCOM. But it wasn't. My friend was waiting for me with a raised eyebrow. "I thought I left something," I explained, and helped her navigate what had to be the inspiration for the movie "Up" down the hall and out the door, all the while envisioning what had to be the obvious cause- he was breaking up with me for someone else and SHE was who got the... whatever.  Some other girl (slut!) was his Valentine. Because when you're 11 and just figuring out this whole "boys and girls" thing... rationality isn't high on the list.

The next day as I finished my homework in homeroom, the end of day announcements came over the intercom. I paid zero attention until something caught me at the end. "You have something in the office, how nice!" My homeroom teacher smiled and passed me a hall slip so I could go get it and still make it out to the bus. The tables that had held countless roses and balloon bouquets and other shrapnel of the heart had been put away and the hall was mostly empty as I slipped into the office. "I have something?"

It was just one rose, one little red rosebud inside a little glass vase. Attached to the red ribbon around it was the standard florists card featuring flying, armed babies and floating hearts. My boyfriend had signed it in his nearly illegible scrawl... and he'd signed it "Love". LOVE. It didn't matter that the florist had misplaced it, causing it to arrive a whole 24 hours late, that I'd missed participating in the crush of feminine competition for "Whose Boyfriend Loves Her More". There wasn't another girl, I really was his Valentine. We'd only last another couple of weeks... by Spring Break we were old news. But on that day, February 15th, I not only had a BOYFRIEND, but one who signed my card with "Love". And as the bell rang and I stepped into the hall with my little token of "love", I realized that I stood out. Yesterday had just been a blur of red and pink and balloons and flowers and hearts... on February 15th my little rose was the star of the show.

"Hey," he said, passing by my friends and I as we analyzed his handwriting for secret clues.

"Hey," I smiled back. Cue the piano solo.... wherever you go, whatever you do.... 

*My husband is really actually freakishly good at picking out gifts most of the time. I couldn't throw him completely under the bus. But about 10% of the time I will not only throw him under the bus but back it up, drag him out, and throw him back under it again. Just sayin. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

If you take a Mom to the MMM...

If you take a Mom to the Million Milf March, she's going to ask to take her friends.
Her friends will want to go, because it's in New Orleans, and they'll want to share a room at the Hilton. Because they're sharing a room they'll start laughing as soon as they start unpacking, because someone probably remembered shot glasses but forgot underwear. When they see the shot glasses they'll decide to go to the hotel bar for a drink.When they have their drink, they'll decide they need to try a new shot too, so they'll ask the bartender to recommend something. When he serves them a lemon drop, someone is going to make a sour face, and everyone is going to laugh really really hard, until people are looking at them like they're crazy.

The people looking at them will remind the Moms that there is a Friday night event that they should probably go to. They'll leave, but decide to walk around a bit. When they walk around, they'll speculate on all the ways they could get in trouble that weekend. Then they'll see something that makes them laugh really hard again. This will make them think of how hard they laughed at the hotel bar and remind them again that they need to get to the Friday night event. So they'll walk to the bar and go upstairs where there are drinks and food and raffles and auctions. They'll get their drinks and food and buy raffle tickets. When they buy raffle tickets they get into a conversation with some women from somewhere else that they didn't know, but suddenly feel like they've known forever. Because it feels like they've known each other forever, they'll end up on the dance floor, dancing really enthusiastically to 80s music. This will go on for a while, until people tell the crazy women to leave. When they leave,they'll decide that they HAVE to go to Frenchmen street, by way of Bourbon street. When they go by way of Bourbon street there will be someone in an enormous yet well made plush vagina costume on the street, which will make them laugh, and they will laugh even harder when one of the friends breaks a flip flop and the night proceeds to get EPIC. When the night becomes EPIC they wonder how it can get any better the next day.

The next day they'll still be wondering when you get to the March. A Mom will  still be wondering when she checks in and gets a Special Cup. When she gets a special cup, she's going to need a drink to put in it, and when she goes to get her drink she finds that Hot Mess Mom has taken over that bar and is mixing the drinks. When HMM mixes the drinks they are strong. When the drinks are strong the MILFS decide to dance to the next bar, and maybe hula hoop and order drinks with giant plastic sharks in them. When MILFS order drinks with plastic sharks in them, they may reenact sharknado, which makes them want to order another drink with a plastic shark in it until it is time to go to the next bar, which people say is even better. When a Mom wonders how it can get better someone throws a blow up doll at her and hands her a shot. She'll dance with the blow up doll and take the shot and laugh when a MILF in a Wonder Woman costume takes the blow up doll and tangos away with it. When the doll tangos away she'll look around for her friends and realize that they're at the bar, watching the guys who are bartending. When she watches the guys bartending she realizes there is a very good reason her friends are watching so closely, and she has to take a picture. When she has to take a picture everyone gets in on it so she has to ask another MILF to take the shot. Then she and her friends and the other MILF will have the best conversation that they won't really remember later, except that they really like each other. They will all dance and sing and take more pictures. When they take more pictures, everyone will swear that they won't post them on Facebook without each other's approval. So when a Mom shares them later,  after everyone has returned to their regular lives, they'll all laugh really hard again. When she laughs really hard, it will remind her of all the fun she had and the great people she met. Thinking of them she'll friend them on facebook. When she friends them on Facebook, someone will ask her if she's going to next year's march.

Thank God for Blur!

And when you ask a Mom if she's going to the Million Milf March again... she's probably going to want to invite MORE friends.

The third annual Million Milf March, hosted by the ever crazy, ever hilarious, evermuch a HOT MESS blogger  Hot Mess Mom,  is being held back in crazy ol' Nola on October 3-4, 2014. Better yet, the proceeds go towards Lindy's Place, a New Orleans charity that helps homeless women break the cycle and become independent again. That's right, we're drinking for charity.  Want to learn more? Find it on Facebook or visit the March page at www.millionmilfmarch.com 

Vaguely amused? Want more? You can hit that follow button thing, or find me on Facebook. Fair Warning- I swear a lot and say the weirdest crap. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Morning Coffee

The alarm goes off at 6am. I try to smack at it, but realize that Flake moved it out of arm’s reach. Somewhere inside my groggy mind I’m wishing for a  hockey stick. Eventually I am able to find my screeching nemesis and slap the snooze button. I only sort of squash Flake’s head in the process.

6:15 and it’s at it AGAIN, and somewhere in the foggy recesses of my brain I remember Ace has to be at school 45 minutes early for a practice. Crap. It’s five degrees outside but it feels about -35 outside of the covers as I’m trying to locate my slippers, robe, and mittens to make the trek upstairs to awaken the slumbering wildebeest of a fourteen year old. Four times. Four times until he finally springs from his bed in blind panic and hurls himself into the shower, all the while screaming WHY DIDN’T I WAKE HIM UP EARLIER?

I start the coffee.

7:10 and Flake asks where I put the keys; he wants to start the car. We share a hearty laugh at the idea that I actually KNOW where the keys are. Fifteen minutes later and five minutes before Ace has to be at school we locate them in a bin of GI Joes. I’m sure there’s a good reason for that. I offer Ace a coat I know he won’t take but feel I HAVE to offer in order to be a Good Mother. Secretly praise myself for having at least instilled enough sense that he’s wearing pants rather than shorts. Rescind this as he tells me he brought his laundry down because he wants to wear shorts tomorrow.

I drink some more coffee.

7:45 and Flake is back as the Z stumbles downstairs, loudly proclaiming he is FREEZING. Sometime in the night he has swapped his super warm and fuzzy fleece Ninja Turtle jammies for a pair of boxers and a t-shirt from four years ago. Z is NOT a morning person and I work quickly to present him with his customary bowl of Lucky Charms. The milk is chunky. He is not amused. Neither am I, as I’d been eyeing the Honey Nut Cheerios with some interest. I send him to the shower with promises of pancakes. After I finish this coffee.

8:30 and I can hear Z singing about how much he hates Mondays while he brushes his teeth and combs his hair. I make his lunch, same as every school day- peanut butter and grape jam, an apple, a yogurt, chips, and V-8 Fusion pouch. I check his backpack to make sure I didn’t miss anything, extracting a half eaten granola bar and something glued to a clothespin. I fill up his water bottle and throw in a wrapped, uneaten granola bar for snack. I manage to find BOTH gloves, but no hat. Where’s his hat? I can’t send him to school without a hat. I ask if he knows where it is… he might have left it at Grandma’s house this weekend… two hours away. I make another cup of coffee and go try to find the Emergency Backup Hat so the office staff doesn’t call CPS for my kid having frostbitten ears.

8:45 and I’m back downstairs with the Emergency Backup Hat and what appears to be the 453 changes of clothes my children have made since Saturday evening. Deposit laundry in laundry room on top of OTHER laundry and remind self NOT to wash Ace’s basketball shorts. Argue with Z about wearing Emergency Backup Hat (“But it’s SPIDERMAN and NOBODY is wearing SPIDERMAN” is not a valid reason when Morning Meteorologist Kaylee Dion is telling me that four people have been reported having just frozen in place outside… just FROZEN. Like THAT.) and eventually smoosh it on his head with assorted empty threats. Is lunchbox in backpack? Yes. Are water bottle and uneaten granola bar in backpack? Is library book? No. Crap. What library book? Am reminded that, two weeks ago, he checked out a book on the Winter Olympics. Tear house apart trying to find said book while wishing I could start my own caffeine IV drip. Make note to ask nurse friends if this is doable.

9:05 and Z remembers that he took the book back LAST week, after he’d finished it. Give kisses and send him out the door with Flake and a reminder that we’ll be picking him up a half hour early for his doctor’s appointment. Retreat back to kitchen to clean up morning routine shrapnel and… start a cup of coffee. Decide the laundry and dishes can wait while I read the news… or rather play on Facebook and Buzzfeed while pretending to read the news.

9:15 and Flake returns from the school dropoff run and prepares to head down to his home office to start the day’s conference calls.“Didn’t we just buy coffee? We’re almost out… how is that possible?”

“Not sure,” I murmur, taking another sip of hot, delicious coffee. If I concentrate, I can see sounds. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Beach

The vast majority of what I write here is for fun. I love to make people smile, I love to make them laugh. I’m all about the happiness. Because of that I’ve wrestled a long time with this posting, on whether or not to post it here, on whether or not it belongs. In the end, though, this is my space… and as much as I love to create happiness, that’s not ALL of who I am. For those who truly just want something light, I suggest checking out some of my other posts. But I do hope you’ll come back to this one eventually.

A lot of very important people in my life are dealing with grief right now… some are right in the middle of the storm, some feel like helpless bystanders. This is a post that I realized NEEDED to be written… not just for myself, but on the off chance that it DOES make a difference to someone. That can be just as valuable as laughter. These days are not easy ones… but they are ours.

It’s Sunday and I’m probably at the grocery store, pushing my cart from aisle to aisle, throwing in the usual bits and pieces that make up my family’s diet: hamburger; chicken (always chicken); apples for the boy whose only fruit or vegetable consumption is apples, peanut butter and jelly for the lunchbox. Bread. I will smile and chat with the few people I see that I know before heading to the checkout lanes. I’ll hand over my coupons (not many; I still can’t get the hang of couponing), swipe my card as I accept their thanks, and then trek out to the car to load the bags into the trunk. I’ve deliberately parked at the edge of the parking lot, and not to prevent someone from dinging the doors of our lovely Honda, or for the extra steps I can ratchet up on my pedometer. It’s so when I sink into the leather seats I can just sit for a while, absorb the quiet, and close my eyes without anyone staring at me, or impatiently honk as they wait for my parking spot. It’s so I can take a deep breath before turning the key. Today is a day that requires extra breaths, even all these years later. Today is a day that requires more quiet time.

It was sixteen years ago today, January 26th, that we held our daughter for the last time. Sixteen years ago that my husband and I crossed the threshold into a parallel universe. That she was only twelve days old when we said goodbye has no bearing on our grief, nor does the fact that she was premature, that she was ill, that the cards were stacked against her from the beginning. In a parent’s eyes there is always hope, there is always something worth fighting for… until it’s taken away. There is truth in the statement that a parent’s heart grows to accommodate all the love she’ll feel for her child. It’s just that when that child is gone your heart doesn’t shrink. That piece just feels empty.

Many of the people reading this will know little to none about our journey, even those whom we consider close, personal friends. We were young when this happened; newlyweds. We were still figuring out how to live a life together when it was all torn apart.  Some that do know may not think about it. It’s been sixteen years, closing in on two decades, another lifetime ago. We don’t talk about it… so why should they? Why don’t we talk about it?

Of all the things that have been written about grief, in books and online, I seldom see how damned LONELY it is. How isolating. How, even when you are in a room full of people, you can feel utterly and completely alone. Grief is a lonely journey because it is a SOLITARY journey. No one else can know your grief, not your parents, not your best friend, not even your spouse. No one knows because they are not inside of your head, they have not had to make the choices that you have made. No one has the same questions, the same guilt you carry. Those that grieve with you will often grieve differently, need different things, things that neither of you can give. Grief is lonely, and loss has become a four letter word. As a society it makes us uncomfortable. Dealing with someone’s loss is a minefield that no one wants to traverse, and that’s understandable… but it’s also why eventually we stopped sharing our story, our daughter. Eventually you grow tired of your heart dropping over the averted eyes, the condolences, the sense of not support but pity that you know will eventually become a reason for people to avoid you. And so you stop. At least that’s what we did. We relied on our closest and oldest friends and our family for the support we needed and we tucked our daughter inside of our hearts.  And then times passes… and suddenly it’s sixteen years later and you realize that while everyone talks about how to handle the immediate aftermath… no one talks about how to survive the journey. They tell you to find your “new normal”, they tell you to find your blessings, and some may have the gall to tell you to just “move on”. They’ll tell you all of that, but no one talks about how. No one talks about the path from devastation to restoration.

Imagine that you are on vacation. Everything is going well, you’re having a great time. You decide to go parasailing. You’re flying along in the air, looking at the beach and the sea below you… when something happens. Something completely unexpected, something everyone told you could never happen while parasailing. Suddenly you’re plummeting down, falling to the sea, the world a blur of water and sky over and over and over again until you hit. You fell from just the right height for the impact not to kill you, but not so close that every part of your body doesn’t feel completely broken. The seas are rough, horrible, churning and sucking and spinning you as if you were caught in God’s own washing machine. You can’t find your way to the surface, and when you finally do you realize it doesn’t matter as wave after wave hits you, beats you, throws you back into the abyss. You can’t breathe. You can’t see. You can’t scream. All you can do is exist.

Eventually there is a break, a small break in the waves and you are able to catch your breath and get upright, just long enough to find the beach. It’s so far away it seems you’ll never make it back. You can see people standing there, waving to you, screaming. You see just enough before another wave hits you, and then another, then another. This goes on for a while… the brief break before the waves start again. You don’t know what’s better or worse… the chance to catch your breath or the repeated realization of where you are.

Then there’s a break that’s a little longer… long enough that you can paddle in a bit, until your toes touch the sand. You’re still too far out to help, but this time when the waves cease you can wiggle your toes into the sand and regain your equilibrium. Your head is above water enough to shout back, even if what you’re shouting is lies: I’m okay. I’m going to make it. No, there’s nothing you can do. I’ll be fine. Just give me time. I’ll make it back.

But eventually… eventually it feels less like a lie. You go from digging your very tippy toes into the sand to standing flat footed… to taking steps. The waves still hit, they still take your breath away, they still choke you and make you wonder if you’ll ever make it out. Sometimes they knock you to your knees, dragging you back under water, threatening to carry you back out to sea. It’s hardest to stand back up after those. But you do. And, when you can, weak in the knees and exhausted from the battle,  you take another step.
Eventually you realize that the waves aren’t dragging you under as much. You realize that you’re not staggering… but walking. You realize you’ve made it to the beach. When you look around, you notice that some of the people that were there at the beginning have gone, and you’re not sure when that happened. But you’ll notice others that never left, and when they take you by the arms and pull you to the sand you’ll discover that sometimes it was their shouted words that kept you fighting towards the surface when the waves would knock you back down again. In that moment you take a deep breath. You have survived.

You have survived… but the beach is now your home. Others don’t understand that… after what you went through, don’t you just want to leave? Don’t you want to go home? Of course you do… of course you want to go back to what was familiar and comfortable… but you can’t. This place is yours now. You build your house, and as you do you see other little houses along the beach… others who have been trapped in the waves and spit out on the shores.  Eventually you may walk down and say hello, see their house, but not yet.  Time passes, and the beach becomes comfortable. You grow used to the sound of the sea roaring so close by. You grow used to the way the water still laps at your toes, never really going away. Storms come… some worse than others. Some threaten to drag you back to the ocean’s depths… but you find a way to hang on, to fight back, to wait until the waves recede and you can catch your breath once more. And when strangers marvel at how you do it, how can you live your life so close to what almost killed you, you just shrug. There’s no other way. The sea has become a part of you now, both its fury and it’s gentle nostalgia. You are not the person you were before you plunged into its depths. You belong to it now, and it to you. It is up to you to figure out how to handle that relationship.

My house on the beach has grown over the years. With work and with time my husband and I found a way to merge our houses into one, we found a way to give each other what was needed. We added on two new rooms for our boys. Their rooms are far away from the water but they can see the waves. Their sister is not an unknown entity to them. They celebrate her birthday each year with us. They visit her grave, bringing her Winnie the Pooh statues and flowers and even baseballs. They have not grown up without her. Our friends visit and we’ve even invited new friends in to see over the years… and those closest to us did not avert their eyes. Instead they asked for a tour, asked to see our pictures and our momentos. Some even held our hands and walked along the water’s edge with us. They taught us not to make assumptions about how people will handle our struggles.  Our home has become one that, while created in grief and in anguish, is full of love and happiness. We have our sandbags against the storm. We have learned how to evacuate when the seas threaten to rise too high. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still wade into the water sometimes. It’s just that we know to hang onto each other now… and we know how to find our way out.

For those who are still in the waves, for those who are still struggling just to get their heads above water… we are on the beach waiting for you and we will be there as long as it takes. We will throw you a floatie when you most need it, but we understand that finding your feet is something only you can do. We will tell your friends to keep shouting, keep encouraging, to just KEEP LOVING YOU, because it matters, the voices in the darkness matter so very much.  Each step forward you make is a victory. How long it takes you to reach the sand is not important… just know that the sand is there. That we are here. That we are here, and we love you, all of the broken and bruised pieces of you.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


A few years ago the Z was standing beside me at a gas station ATM, eyes wide as money spit into my hands. A few days later when I told him I did not have the cash to purchase yet another set of neon vampire teeth he told me to just find another one of those machines where I won all that money the other day. It’s for this reason and others that it’s probably a really good thing that his school gets to send classes to the school of economics each year.

When I was a kid it seemed like all of the other elementary schools in the area got to go to some kind of economics/supply and demand fun day … but mine. I went to a tiny parochial school that did seriously awesome things like slumber parties in the school basement and “Let’s talk about Aztec human sacrifice!” But we didn’t get to go to Exchange City, and after hearing all of the neighbor kids talk about working in the bank or owning their own shop or buying bags of candy with their pretend paycheck I was feeling pretty gypped. So when Ace first started attending SoE when we moved here in 2nd grade, I was pretty psyched for him. But not so much that I volunteered for it. I volunteer for a lot of stuff at the kids’ schools; I’ve gone to literature festivals and concerts and plays and planned parties and served vats of Hawaiian Punch. There are just some events I’ve opted out of. But right now…. What else am I doing?

Besides laundry. I am ALWAYS doing laundry.

I want you to imagine a room a little larger than a two car garage. Put eight shop booths around the perimeter and cafeteria tables in the middle. Stock each booth with four third graders and a large amount of kool-aid, sugar, and/or glitter. Then unleash 50 first graders with wads of play money. They are excited. They are anxious. They need a hot dog RIGHT NOW. They are LOUD. Now, take half of the 50 third graders working the booths… and set them FREE! Give them their “wages” and send them among the masses to consume. Watch as they all line up at YOUR SHOP because you are not only the first store inside the doors, but also the only one with potato chips and pixy stix. Do this in cycles for two hours. Consider, more than once, hiding in the staff bathroom. Don’t because you fear for the kind grandmother who was suckered into volunteering your booth as well. Consider, more than twice, using duck tape on the kid who keeps trying to take all of the money out of the drawer and just clapped chalk dust over the drinks. Don’t because… well, because you don’t have any duck tape.
But then watch as something really cool happens… and these four or five third graders start working as a team. They’re setting prices and mixing Kool-Aid and cooking hot dogs all on their own. They do the dishes and sweep the sugar dust off the floor. They know they have an $85 loan from the “bank” and that, in addition to paying it back, they have to pay rent, taxes, and utilities. Try not to snort coffee through your nose when the kid in the Uncle Sam hat comes around for the tax checks and you hear a third grader mumble about “big government”. And I dare you not to smile when Chalk Dust Boy is shilling the booth’s wares for all he’s worth, determined to be the first team to sell out of product... or when the kids realize that not only did they make enough money to pay back their loan and the overhead costs, but enough to turn a real profit. That they were successful.

And while it wasn’t like I'm sure Ye Olde Exchange City was back in the day, I had my moment of commerce. I bought a hot dog, four cups of kool-aid…. And a purple eye patch. It’s awesome and I refuse to take it off. It feels like a childhood dream is coming true.

Would anyone like to hear about Aztec human sacrifice? It’s the least I can do.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

I'm With the Band

While I'm writing this I should be working on another cover letter. I've gone back into the job hunt full tilt. I'm like the Crocodile Hunter of job hunting I'm that dedicated (except I really hope nothing kills me, no matter how ironic it is. That would suck). I've loved the Mom-time the last few months (the excessive wearing of comfy pants has been especially pleasing). If I'm going to keep up with the Care and Keeping of a Teenager, though, Mama's got to make some money.

(Some of my friends have suggested I do the sex toy parties. While I admit I think I'd be pretty freaking hilarious at that endeavor, the truth is ... who do you beg to host your first few parties? Who are your first customers? That's right, your friends, your family, your co-workers. Look, I love you ALL, but there are simply SOME THINGS I don't need to know about your lives. There would have to be an AWFUL lot of rum.)

High school is going to be freaking expensive. It's not like this is a NEW development or anything, but it's all new to ME.   Up until now the only thing that's been expensive are the extracurricular things the kids have wanted to do, sports mostly. Well, sports and supplies of Axe. Axe is to this generation what Drakkar Noir was for mine. Ah, Drakkar, the smell of so much pubescent embarrassment, set to the soundtrack of a Pearl Jam/Boyz II Men soundtrack. So besides baseball, football and bad body spray, there hasn't been much.

And now... now there is band. Not *A* band. Band. As in marching band.

Truth: At my small town, middle of nowhere high school band was NOT a big deal. There wasn't a culture around it. I had a friend or two in band... and all it meant is that first or second hour they were in band class... and on certain Friday nights in the fall they played the school fight song while the student body sang along in Latin (not kidding). So when Ace chose band as his music course for sixth grade, I was just "whatever". He'd never expressed interest and neither Flake nor myself are musicians (I take that back- I do play a SPLENDID one-string-at-a-time version of Ode to Joy on the guitar. It's truly moving). We figured he'd do his one and done and that would be it. He was into sports. He played football and baseball. Except... that WASN'T it. Suddenly he's auditioning for a different instrument and then we're downloading sheet music and buying saxophones in the parking lots of McDonalds and it just got a little crazy. But still... I honestly figured it would be one more year... okay, maybe all through middle school. He was going out for 8th grade football and in high school you can't do both marching band and football... and our high school team is one of those obnoxious ones that wins a lot while the packed stadium screams for the blood of its victims.

Except... the stadium is that full in major part because of the band. The marching band. They're really good... I mean, they're the kind of good where you'll actually sit and watch at halftime. They travel all over the country to compete and march in parades and inaugurations and Waffle House openings. There are almost 300 members. You can buy hoodies and polos and caps and earwarmers with their logo. They have customized pens and shade tents. They have THEIR OWN CUSTOM SEMIS. For God's sakes, THEY HAVE THEIR OWN TRAFFIC CONES.

Traffic cones are hard to beat... so in October, after the final 8th grade football game of the season, Ace announced his intent to leave football behind and formally announce is candidacy for Band Geek. And being a Band Geek is FREAKING EXPENSIVE. All of those FEATHERED HATS. We had our first Insane Band Parent meeting on Tuesday to begin planning for next year's BIG TRIP (I'll admit, I can think of worse ways to spend New Years Eve than in California...) and they hand out this packet that has a WARNING LABEL on it: Do not open if you have heart problems, are having a bad day, operate heavy machinery around your child, or have ever considered injuring someone with a band instrument. Let's just say I could buy my kid a CAR with what band will cost next year. Not a NICE car, but I wouldn't be using Bondo and Duck tape on it either.

But there at the meeting, you look around and see all of these other crazy parents... and then they start talking about prop construction parties with beer, and trivia night fundraisers where a drink is named after the band director, and you realize that... that "Hey... I might actually fit in around here." And, like I said, there are worse things than spending your New Years in sunny SoCal, right?

So my kid's a band geek... which needs I need a job. And my own traffic cone. Seriously, those things are BAD ASS. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pardon the Interruption

A letter to the lovely folks that sat behind us at the hockey game:

I'd love to start this off by saying "wow, what a game!", but I"m sensitive enough to realize that, as fans of the opposing team, you didn't have such a hot hockey experience. Quite the butt-whooping that went down, huh? But, as one of your party drunkenly exclaimed at least nine times during the last period YOU ARE STILL IN FIRST. So there's that.

I hope you enjoyed your stay in our lovely city. From the sounds of it, you had quite a few things you wanted to do besides the game. In fact, you shared SO MUCH with me during the course of the game that I just couldn't help but feel invested in your lives. If I hadn't been hanging out with my eight-year-old son I could have just jumped right into your conversation and provided new, in depth analysis. Because while you were talking (loudly) in your little groups, I was getting to hear EVERY single conversation... and I think I really could have helped y'all out. It would have been the good thing to do, even, to reach out to you road-weary travelers and lend a conversational hand.

For example, Kim... Oh Kim. You seemed awfully excited to tell Pam about how things are going with Charlie. I'm really glad Charlie is finally getting his balls back... must have been terrifying for him to lose them. Oh, wait, no, Charlie is just starting to MAN up and treat you like a woman again, I get it now. It's been so hard on you while he's been working so hard and just, like, totally not wanting to get freaky during the day OR EVEN AT NIGHT. You have needs... we all understand this now. ALL of us. But hey, tonight Charlie took your panties and hid them so you'd have to go commando to the game and OH MY GOD HE IS BACK!

Except... while you were gone (hopefully working to avoid chafing in those jeans... ouch) Charlie was telling someone he would only call "Bro" that you were "sucking (him) dry... and not like I want it, Bro! Know what I'm sayin???" Trust me, Charlie... WE ALL KNEW WHAT YOU WERE SAYIN. You, Kim, are apparently wearing poor Charlie down to his last nerve and his last dollar. HE wanted to stay at a more reasonable hotel... but NO NO... KIM NEEDS THE HILTON. Kim wanted to go somewhere "nice" for lunch, Kim wanted a cute little rink bunny shirt for the game, KIM HAD THE FREAKING AUDACITY TO WANT TO A BEER FROM THE CONCESSION STAND!!!!!! "Look at this! Dude, I didn't spend this much on booze on New Years, Bro!" (SO beer was either REALLY expensive at the game or Charlie buys really cheap shit for his New Years parties). Charlie just can't do it anymore Kim... and he KNOWS you're going to want to go out for dinner after the game and HE CANT EVEN USE HIS NOODLES COUPON THAT JUST DROPPED FROM THE RAFTERS.

And Kim's probably going to be so chafed from those painted on jeans he's not even going to get any... AT NIGHT OR OTHERWISE.

It wasn't all about Kim and Charlie, though... Greg is trying to convince Pam to fly out to Denver so they can try recreational weed together. Pam, on the other hand, wants no part in it... she's a little worried about her "license or whatever...." Apparently things just AREN'T the same since they got married and Pam finished school. "Where's the adventure?" (The adventure was in your suitcase, big Greg.... Pam finally got the nerve to act on her Christian Grey addiction... you can't do THAT stoned, my friend. Well, others may, but according to Pam YOU specifically CAN NOT.

Meanwhile poor "Bro" can't get a word in edgewise, and Cindy? Cindy down on the end? Would someone PLEASE talk to her before she drinks another margarita and yell-slurs "USE THAT STICK!" again? Please?

I think about all of the misunderstandings and miscommunication I could have cleared up if I'd just followed my heart and stepped into your conversations. You were putting it out there... OBVIOUSLY you were searching for guidance. But alas, I instead spent my time distracting my 8 year old and mentally counting how many times Charlie could say "fuck" during the break after the second period (I counted 42, but I know I missed a few). So let me use this public forum to say this: Kim, Charlie- I suggest sitting down and having a good heart to heart. You guys obviously aren't on the same page... I'm not even sure you're in the same library. Kim, I suggest Groupon... Charlie seems like a real coupon and savings kinda guy.Also, corn starch. Greg, Pam... I, uh... hope it worked out and that the "adventure" is back. Bro- you have the patience of a saint. Someone get Cindy a friend. And Charlie... please buy better booze for your next party. Frugality has a time and place...

And next time? Consider talking a little freaking quieter. Not everyone needs to know the exact status of your douche canoe.



Thursday, January 9, 2014

Organized Chaos

Despite the fact that it was colder than the Abominable Snowman's snowballs the kids went back to school this week. It's so quiet without the pitter-patter of smelly feet. For the first time I wasn't shoving the boys out the door the second break was over... maybe it's because they're older and it's just plain EASIER now. Maybe it's because I drink more.* Who knows? Honestly, though, I wouldn't have minded another purpose free day with the kids. Flake might have killed me, but I wouldn't have minded doing nothing with the boys. The problem with doing nothing, though (and trust me... this break we did a WHOLE stinking lot of absolutely nothing)- at least for me- is that it's really easy to go from "I'll just watch a little bit of the "Today Show" while I finish my coffee, then we'll get laundry going and be productive!" to "Sweet! Another six-hour marathon of Barney Miller!"

Truth: I love Barney Miller. And Magnum PI. I wish I really could find a six hour marathon. Sometimes, for no reason, I'll break into the Magnum PI theme song. Sometimes I even do it in public. I want a Detroit Tigers baseball cap to wear with my fake mustache. 

As Queen of Distraction (see my tiara?) I know the only way I'm going to get crap done is by making lists and then actually looking at the lists and doing what's on them. I'm big into lists, especially lists I can make on lined paper with good pens. Purple ink preferably. I looooooove making lists. Even my lists have lists. No, really:
From this summer. I told you so. 

Anyway, a couple of days ago I got on Pinterest in search of a biscuit recipe. Five hours later I'd downloaded 37 forms from Life Your Way to organize my life and my lists into one convenient binder. I love it. See, I'm also somewhat addicted to organizational items and concepts, most of which I never end up using... oh, but I love me some Office Depot and Staples and Office Max. I love the smell of Franklin Covey in the morning. I've been pretty much forbidden to ever purchase another planner- EVER... but I figured printing all of this stuff out was fair game, right? And it's pretty bad ass. It's like my lists got all juiced up by Jose Canseco, but with less chest pounding and morally repugnant behavior.** I've got personal information forms, places for insurance papers, pet shot records, weekly menus, and utility records. You could pretty much take over my life if you got your hands on this bad boy. (But please don't. I like my life. Except for toilets. I live in a house with three guys... you can TOTALLY take over cleaning toilets. There are four bathrooms in my house and NO ONE WILL JUST LET ME HAVE ONE TO MYSELF.)

Let me amend that... you could take over my life (toilets only, please)... AFTER I actually get it filled out. Because right now all you'd have are a bunch of neatly organized blank forms and a lovely list of our family's "Go-To Meals" (Hint: We like tacos) (Truth: Yes, I have 'sauteed zucchini and summer squash" listed... but I wouldn't advise it unless I'm the only person eating. Look, no Mom, Pirate or otherwise, wants a printed meal list that essentially says "Screw you vegetables!") Eventually, though... eventually my binder WILL be chock-full of informational goodness.

Later. Today I am getting a facial from my friend Mary Kay Heather. Dewy skin trumps bathroom cleaning lists. You know how I feel about the toilets.

*- Stop trying to send me to rehab, people. I don't really drink that much. Unless you're sending me to Promises Malibu or Crossroads in Antigua ***

**- I do not advocate the use of steroids, even for binders. 

***- I was not making fun of rehab or those with legitimate problems. But I wouldn't mind a trip to either Malibu or the islands, frankly. 

In all seriousness, a family binder or it's ilk isn't a bad thing to have. In the aftermath of the May 20th tornado, one of the things that struck me as I tried to help my friends was how MUCH there is to do... and how much they had to REMEMBER in able to do it. It was hell. Having your documents, utility information, even car insurance, VIN numbers, etc in one place- and then duplicated and stored securely in a secondary location as well- could be a lifesaver... or at the very least, a sanity saver. But you've gotta actually fill the stuff out. I recommend a nice purple pen.   

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Every once in a while I'll get an idea. No, not an idea... an IDEA. You can hear the capitalization in it. And, true, to form, they NEVER come at a good time. Case in point: on the Sunday before Christmas I decided I wanted to make HOMEMADE gingerbread houses with the boys. When I told the Flake he didn't try to convince me otherwise, bless his heart. Instead, he somewhat frantically suggested I go ahead and take the next 36 hours to go visit my bestie in another state. I'm sure he hoped that the 12 hour round trip drive and estrogen-fueled squeefest would deter my architectural pastry dreams.

Silly Rabbit. Like I can be deterred that easily.

DAY 1: I at least decided to use a mix (they were 50% off at Target, how could I not?) and just add more flour to stiffen the dough. I believe the exact measurement was "more than what ended up on the counter". As my piece of crap Not A KitchenAid mixer tried not to burn out it's motor, I called the Z up to check out the dough and experience the wonder of family togetherness.

"It looks like dog poop." OK, so maybe it did, but oh, the heavenly scents of ginger and cinnamon! "It looks and smells like the dog ate the homemade ornaments off the tree."

Fair enough. After effectively spilling flour over half the kitchen and before the smoke from Not A KitchenAid could set off the detectors I wrapped the dough up and stuck it in the fridge to set.

DAY 2: And sit. It was New Years Eve. Unless it involved fun beverages or fake mustaches I was having none of it.

DAY 3: The Flake shows up after a shopping expedition with not one, not two, BUT THREE GINGERBREAD KITS. Not, of course, because he DOUBTS my prowess as a Gingerbread Goddess, oh no... but because he has the FORESIGHT to see we may need more than one house to decorate! BRILLIANCE! I lay out the pieces... I snip the tip off the pre-bagged royal icing.... I call the children up to begin a beautiful afternoon of craftsmanship.

The children are busy defeating the forces of Blarg.

I'd like to say that I calmly went downstairs and invited them again to join in my wholesome fun. I'd like to say that they happily put down the video game controllers and joined me in brotherly love. I'd like to say all of that, but I'd be lying. I'd also be lying if I didn't admit to the frisson of glee that sparked in my Pinterest-inspired heart at the idea that ALL YOUR GINGERBREAD ARE BELONG TO ME. In fact... IN FACT... what seems like a GREAT idea is to DESIGN MY OWN TEMPLATE FOR A HOUSE! And cut it out of shirt boxes! And add doors and windows... and not just ANY windows, but STAINED GLASS WINDOWS MADE OF CRUSHED CANDIES! My God, I am GENIUS!

Three hours later I am covered in a thin crust of hardened sugar and have third degree "stained glass" burns on my fingers. I hate you, gingerbread. Why can't I quit you?

DAY 4: HOW MANY EFFING DAYS DOES THIS SHIT TAKE? The houses, to my credit (thank you) are glued together. Nothing has collapsed. Once again Not A KitchenAid is in action, this time on icing detail. I have to admit, the homemade New Orleans style shotgun house is pretty bad ass, with it's stained glass windows, covered porch, and staircase. I'm feeling pretty awesome. Obviously the house can't be BROWN. It needs to be pink! I'll frost it pink!

Pirate Note: Frosting around adorable stained glass candy windows is a pain in the ass. Within ten minutes I"m spackling the crap on with my hands. But it works! It's adorably covered in pink royal icing! Next comes the alternating chex roof tiles... the gum stick shutters... THE RICE KRISPY TREAT BUSHES! No lie, by the time I put my icing gun down, I had one fine looking gingerbread house. A work of art really. It was worth the burned fingers, the fine sheen of icing on every exposed surface (including my skin). I needed a shower but first, first I would call my family to view my creation, no, my MASTERPIECE. As I swelled with pride, my family gathered around to admire my creation. "When do we get to start ours?"


Admit it... this kicks Gingerbread Newbie ASS.