Summer Lessons For An Absentee Blogger

Hey all!

Look, I know I’ve been away a long time, so I’m not just going to stroll in here all blase and pretend that nothing has happened and everything is fine between us. I don’t want to insult your intelligence. But summer was rough. The kids were on me like fleas every second for a snack or to validate their latest Lego creation. As soon as they heard the keyboard tapping they’d descend. The pressure was incredible.

It had been my plan to send the kids to camp so that I might have a minute or two of productivity, but Hubs and I had a minor bank account fiasco wherein all of our money mysteriously disappeared. We were both baffled as to how this would happen. Coincidentally this occurred right around the same time that Hubs’s jeep was miraculously cured of many of its major ailments. Weird.

At any rate, I had to sacrifice any dreams of childless alone time. These things happen, so I decided to abandon all productivity and commit myself to fully enjoying the summer with my children. After all, time is fleeting and they won’t be this small forever. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth, hide the knives and treasure those little buggers.

You can't hear the kids complaining about the mind numbing amount of pictures Hubs takes but after this Hubs stopped talking to any of us.

Here we are treasuring each other on the highway. Note: Hubs stopped talking to all of us immediately after this picture was taken.

I learned some things in the process–about myself, about life. I’m a better person for it, albeit a better person who desperately needs a hair appointment. For instance:

  • It is physically impossible for me to treasure my children day after day, 24 hours a day without a steady flow of caffeine. Before the summer I had weaned myself off the stuff for health reasons but mid summer I had to weigh the importance of a steady heartbeat against the safety of my prodigies. Heartbeats are overrated.
  • Five year old boys are physically incapable of being quiet. There is a reason that there was never a book called The Diary of Arnie Frank. It would have lasted two pages and then Arnie would have forgotten about the Nazis and gone running down the hall singing at the top of his lungs while beating on a bucket. End of story. Girls know how to tiptoe and use their indoor voices. You could wrap a boy in foam and he would still find a way to shake the walls. It’s what they do.

Note: I sincerely apologize for using the Jewish holocaust with such flippancy. You’d think I was a twenty-something pop sensation.

"By 'mental exhaustion' you mean rehab, right?"

“At least I don’t Twerk.”

  • The more you do with your children, the more they want to do. I can’t emphasize this enough: the key to your child’s happiness is lowered expectations. Providing them with gifts and stimulating activities only gives them unrealistic expectations for the future. Have you ever seen videos of children in third world countries receiving shoes for the first time? They are incredibly happy. My daughter has multiple shoes that she won’t even wear because they aren’t meeting her aesthetic expectations. And for every visit to the trampoline park this summer, I had to listen to ninety additional minutes of “what are we doing that’s exciting today?” and “I want to do something fun,” spoken in a whine and repeated ad nauseam. You know what’s fun? Not working in a sweatshop fifteen hours a day. You’re welcome.
  • The housing market is so filled with foreign investors equipped with psychic premonition and large quantities of cash that a cop and a stay at home mom can’t afford to purchase any single family home this side of Detroit. It’s remarkable really and further proof that House Hunters is a complete sham. I mean come on, a graduate student and an entry-level marketing coordinator are able to buy a beautiful craftsman style home that isn’t tagged with gang graffiti? That’s a fairytale. You want the real story? Follow us as we look at condemned homes filled with garbage and frightened animals, priced just beyond our range.
  • Inability to purchase aside, there is nothing my kids love better (with the exception of an overcrowded theme park) than freely snooping through other people’s homes. Open houses became one of our favorite free activities this summer. If summer had gone on any longer we would probably resort to breaking and entering.
  • The only family vacation we can enjoy without having to sedate Hubs is camping. He is completely relaxed when separated from society and surrounded by dirt, trees and creatures that might carry the Bubonic plague. They are making the ground harder than they used to, which was tough on my delicate frame and after two days of roughing it, my all natural, aluminum free deodorant cashed it in and left me to scare off the bears with my b.o., but other than that, camping was awesome.

Anyway, it’s good to be back. I’ll try not to stay away as long next time.

This picture was taken right after Conor tried to slip under the bar and plummet to his death. Good times.

This picture was taken right after Conor tried to slip under the bar and plummet to his death. You can tell that I’m still mid heart attack.

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Five Reasons To Have Children When You’re Young And Stupid

I was the accidental product of older parents. A bonus child, as it were. By the time I came a long Mom and Dad were as laid back about parenting as they apparently were about birth control.

It's called a condom, you silly beatniks.

It’s called a condom, you silly beatniks.

I probably would’ve taken this fact for granted but my sister, Lori (the closest in age to me with a nine year difference) told me often while making me touch the electric fence as penance.

Behold to the right, the tool of sibling torture: the electric fence!

Behold to the right, the tool of sibling torture: the electric fence.

This generously imparted knowledge left me with a Rainman-like reaction to electrical shock of any kind and the desire to wait until my thirties to have a child. I reasoned that as an older parent I would be able to avoid giving birth to a sociopathic child who enjoyed torturing younger kids and avoid stretch marks in my twenties.

Look, my Mom’s stomach was a road map of maternity and I wanted to spend my twenties in a bikini. Yes, I was shallow. Let’s not judge.

There I am living the dream--the extremely shallow dream.

There I am achieving my goal.

Well as luck would have it (and by “luck” I mean a rampant fear of commitment) I did wait until I was older to have children. Even older than my mom. I had to have special tests for elderly pregnant ladies and everything. Who says I can’t stick to a plan?

No seriously, who says that? It’s not nice to talk about other people behind their backs. I have feelings, you know.

Anyway, I’ve been very happy with my decision for the most part, but last night I was lying in bed after a particularly taxing bout of ineffective parenting and I started thinking about the down sides of my plan. Nothing is perfect. Not even Meryl Streep (but don’t say that out loud in Hollywood).

I'm an acting tour de force and a g.d. American icon, you sniveling fence toucher."

“I’m a g.d. American icon, you sniveling fence-toucher!”

  1. First of all, let’s address the stretch marks issue since it had such an impact on my decision. If you’re going to ask your skin to perform the greatest of all hat tricks and stretch over an additional human, you want to do it while you’re still producing some collagen and your skin has all of its elasticity.  Later on your skin is going to stretch out and then give up, much like my father in front of prime time television. And despite what I thought in my teens, you don’t stop caring about your looks and life in general when you hit 40.
  2. Also, grandparents are more valuable than gold. Aside from being the only people in the world who want to watch your kids without a salary attached, they will also keep your kids supplied in quality socks, underwear and the type of frilly dresses that you would never buy but little girls go ape-sh!t over. You want to get grandparents while they are still alive and young enough to care. Let’s face it, when you’ve gotten to the age where you’re deaf and in a diaper, you don’t get as excited about tiny sticky humans. My kids only have one set of grandparents left and we have a team of doctors forcing them to stay alive. It’s a lot of pressure.
  3. When you’re young you think you know everything. There’s a certain freedom in that. You don’t have to constantly second guess yourself. You are free to blissfully screw up your children with complete confidence. I agonize over screwing up every day, which ironically doesn’t make me screw up any less. It just takes the fun out of it and screwing up should be fun. Like a Van Wilder movie.
  4. Parenting is stressful and it’s hard on a marriage. If you get married and have children young you have the chance of getting through the challenging years and then rekindling your marriage while you and your spouse are still young enough to travel without breaking a hip. Or you can cash it in while you’re still young enough to take an attractive picture for a dating website.
  5. One word: resilience. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m more fragile than I was at 25 when I thought that knees magically went on working forever and at 2:00 a.m. I have a hard time caring about anything other than another four hours of uninterrupted rest. You have to have a fever, the likes of which could start a house fire and make you speak in tongues to rouse my empathy at that hour and even then you’re guaranteed terrible parenting the following day.

So there you have it. Now you can make an informed decision, justify/regret the decision you already made or just pour yourself a cocktail and ignore this post all together. Personally, I recommend the latter. I also recommend Tylenol PM, so that you don’t lie in bed crafting lists like this until all hours of the night. Trust me on this.

******

Photo Credits:

Midnightdirectives.wordpress

Safe Travels

I woke up at 3:00am yesterday filled with anxiety. A friend’s father has been struggling with a long-term health issue and at 3:00am my mind decided that the issue required my immediate attention, so there I lie at that ungodly hour, fraught with foreboding and a full bladder.

At 6:00am I found my daughter sitting in the hall, mortified that she had uncharacteristically wet the bed with her best friend sleeping next to her. She was so exhausted that she just didn’t wake up. That happens when you party like a rock star at a gazillion back to back sleepovers. Then my son woke up and realized that he’d done the same thing. Everyone passed out and just peed where they lie. It smelled like the Rolling Stones tour bus.

“Our tour bus smells much better now that we all wear diapers.”

When I looked in the bathroom mirror I discovered the ice cream that I had used to comfort myself the day before made me break out, which was cool, since I’d been planning to take the promo picture needed for an upcoming show. I was going for a hip and semi-youthful vibe and nothing says “youthful” more effectively than pimples. Even Loreal Excellence Creme in light auburn can’t compete with that.

I thought to myself, Aha! Those feelings of anxiety were about giant chin pimples and loads of laundry, and breathed a sigh of relief, which wasn’t easy because the pimple on my chin was blocking my oxygen supply.

An aerial view of my chin. (image via wikipedia)

And then I got a call about my friend’s father, who had a health crisis from which he wasn’t expected to recover and I realized that laundry and epic breakouts were the least of my worries. Periodic weeping commenced and continued all day. If you’ve ever seen a red-chinned woman sob while folding piles of laundry you know it wasn’t pretty. Definitely not the day to take a promo picture.

Ever met someone’s family and liked them immediately–even wished fervently in an obsessive but completely uncreepy way that they were your family? My friend Sabra’s family is like that. Everyone loves them. They remind me of my own family minus the baggage–the family of my imagination, with all of the love and humor and none of the addiction.  Her mom, Lynn works in hospice care and health research. Her dad, Al was a professor and researcher at a University. They were in the Peace Corps in Africa when my friend was born and then they trekked across the continent with their newborn. One of their Peace Corps friends read an African prayer at my friend’s wedding. How cool is that?

My dad stepped on my dress repeatedly as he walked me to the altar and then turned me down for the father/daughter dance, which is awesome in its own way (because it makes for a good story), but it’s no African prayer.

I look maniacal and Dad looks confused. That’s about right.

When I was pregnant with my daughter I sat next to Al at a dinner party to celebrate his and Lynn’s visit. Across from us sat a woman who had some extremely negative views on prenatal medicine. She had never been pregnant but she had a friend who was and had accompanied that friend on a doctor’s visit, which clearly made her an expert.

I wish I didn’t have to work so hard for my expertise. Shoot, I wish I had some expertise.

Anyway, she took the opportunity to demonize, at length, the medical and scientific community to which Al had dedicated his working life in the most arrogant of ways, while instructing me on how I should proceed with my pregnancy. Al smiled and was good-natured about the whole exchange, though his medical knowledge dwarfed hers and she was being rude. I mostly kept my mouth shut because I was busy imagining my water glass hurtling toward her head. Sabra told me later that Al had remarked that I’d handled the exchange very well.

In actuality he was the one who handled the exchange, but he gave me the credit. That epitomizes the kind of man he was: kind and engaging, intellectual without being arrogant, unassuming and generous. And when someone of that caliber likes you in return, you feel validated. Or at least I do, because sometimes I see myself in the reflection of the eyes of those I really respect. If those eyes are myopic and mistake me for being more bitchin’ than I actually am, it’s Christmas for my self-esteem.

Now this incredible person has come to the end of this leg of his adventure, his family is suffering and all I can do is tearfully write a blog post, awkwardly extolling his virtues. Well I never said our association was mutually rewarding.

Thank you, Al, for the privilege of your acquaintance. My life is richer having known you. Safe travels. Wherever you go, they will be lucky to have you.