The Things I Found When Cleaning

There are many days I find myself wishing I could have a glimpse into the future. No, not to know the winning Lotto numbers, who will win elections or if feathered bangs will ever be popular again. No. I want to know if my children will be productive members of society when they grow up, or will they be serial killers or [shudder] a politician one day. I feel like if I knew that it was all going to turn out okay, I could get through the bat shittery of their youth.

First Born Male Child is the one I worry about the most. Ever since he was a baby, I’ve always thought, “I am not parenting this child right.” I took him to Mommy & Me groups to play with other babies. But no. He wanted to hang out with the other moms. He’d crawl over, climb on a lap and turn on the charm while I sat and sang “Wheels on the Bus” by myself like an idiot. Later on, everything became a costume or a prop for the epic adventure he was acting out that day. Games and toys have rarely been used for their intended purpose at our house. They are either dismantled, combined with another toy, used as some sort of odd weapon or promptly lost.

On Monday I broke down and braved FBMC’s room. It had reached nightmare levels of chaos and mess and I couldn’t take it any longer. I am by no means a neat freak and have come to terms with the fact that my house will never be “company ready” no matter how hard I try.

I don’t expect my kids’ rooms to look like a PotteryBarn Kids catalog spread (as much as I would love that.) But I do expect to be able to step foot in them and actually touch carpeting with my foot rather than ten layers of dirty clothes (and probably clean ones that never got put away,) or have to wonder if I just felt something wet or was it alive?! God please let it have just been yet another towel that didn’t get hung up.

After Halloween, I knew it was probably going to be pretty bad, so I took a last swig of coffee, braced myself and went in. Garbage bag: check. Empty hamper: check. Lysol wipes: check. I was ready to do battle. “Okay. Let’s start with the big things. Make the bed first — rooms always look nicer with the bed made.” I pulled back the rat’s next of covers and immediately regretted it. I found wadded up clothes at the end of the bed, various candy wrappers, a half-eaten sucker stuck to the sheet (Lysol wipe that … fresh sheets are the least of my worries today,) and three different light sources to read by: mini finger “laser” pointer, dagger-style light saber and R2D2 flashlight. I confiscated the latter, threw out the former and moved on.

Next I filled up the hamper with all of the clothes that were everywhere but in their proper drawers (which of course were left open) or in said hamper where they belonged. I didn’t torture myself further with the sniff test for cleanliness — in the hamper it all went. Then I de-garbaged the floor, since he couldn’t fit any more in his garbage can, which was full of toilet paper which he had TPed his brother and sister’s rooms with for the umpteenth time. (His next allowance is going toward my next Costco run.) I still hadn’t found the remainder of the ten pounds of candy he had collected on Halloween. There was certainly plenty of dead wrappers and spilled Nerds and random (hopefully) chocolate ground into the carpet, but where was the rest?

*Sigh* I chugged some more coffee and decided it was time. [Insert horror movie music] Under the bed. Sweet baby Jesus, hold my hand. After clearing away a few inches of candy wrappers, I found it. All neatly sorted by type into baggies. (Sorting candy motivates this kid…laundry, not so much.) Then I found the bowl within another bigger bowl, filled with water and candy — wrapped and unwrapped. No that wasn’t completely vile or anything. (I was later informed by the perpetrator that you can spin the bowl within the bowl when there’s water in it and it’s super cool. And he also wanted to see which colored the water better: M&Ms or Skittles. I blame his second grade teacher for that one.)

After confiscating the good candy and carefully getting rid of the candy sludge, I went back in. I found a half-full ketchup bottle. Since there wasn’t any evidence of fries or hotdog buns, I figured he was hoarding it for a stupid fake blood prank of some sort which I had hopefully avoided. Then there were some petrified chocolate chip cookies (which reminds me I should bake some since I haven’t baked that type in months) and random bobby pins of mine (is he planning on becoming a burglar and has been practicing his lock-picking skills??)

img_20181105_0927291091.jpg

But my favorite find was Bat Barbie. HA! I knew the whole Bruce Wayne schtick was BS! Barbie has been Batman all along! Or was FBMC really turning into Sid, the mean neighbor kid in Toy Story who tortured all the toys? Hmm. It’s probably a toss-up. My friend encouraged me to mess with him, so I left this scene for him when he came home:

img_20181105_112756053.jpg

But really the best part of Bat Barbie was when I got a call from the assistant principal at his school today while I was at the school dropping something off. He had brought Bat Barbie to school and was tormenting kids on the playground with it. Lucky for him, she was cool about it. Since I was there in person, I bequeathed Bat Barbie to her and she/he now has a place of honor upon her bookshelf. (I’m not sure which pronoun to use for Bat Barbie. My apologies.) I think my next batch of chocolate chip cookies will be dedicated to the assistant principal.

But Bat Barbie has not been my favorite FBMC find of all time. No, it wasn’t even when I found a half dozen pairs of Young Son’s super hero undies in the hydrangea bush beneath FBMC’s window.

output.jpg

My favorite find was a few years ago when he was in about first grade. I found a bunch of purple tampon applicators scattered around his room. Just the applicators and a few random wrappers. When I got over my initial horror and questioned him on why he had them, he matter of factly replied, “I’m using them for magic potion dispensers.” I never did find out where the actual tampons went, and frankly I don’t think I want to know. So ladies, I’ll leave you with this little gem to think about when that time of the month rolls around again. May it be magical. You’re welcome.

The First Day of School Eve

In less than 9 hours, the boys will be whisked off to their first day of 5th and 2nd grades. Part of me is rejoicing that I survived summer with my children 24/7. The other part of me is feeling a bit bitter-sweet that they’re already this old. Those days of innocence are coming to an end I fear. If I’m finding these years challenging, what’s going to happen when the teenage years begin?! I’m screwed.

Today was Supply Drop Off and Meet the Teacher Day. I think I’ve written about this before, but the way our school district does this is completely maniacal and sadistic. There are about 2,000 students among the elementary, intermediate and middle schools which are all clustered together within walking distance of one another. Supplies are to be dropped off, teachers met, lockers found, bus tags gotten, lunch accounts filled etc. For ONE HOUR. For all 2,000 students and their parents. It’s pure, raw hell. When Amazon Warrior Princess starts 1st grade, I’ll have to do this for three children. I better start medicating now.

I have no idea why they do it this way. I’m assuming there is some good reason for it, but perhaps it’s the Administration’s last jab at parents before they are stuck with our kids for the next 9 months. I can’t say I blame them. Educators are all saints in my book, and an hour of revenge seems okay considering.

Other times I think that it’s some annual social experiment in which students and parents are unwitting participants. I picture the principals in some big control room monitoring all the halls and classrooms from a giant screen.

“Okay, turn off the A/C in the 2nd grade hallway. Good! Good! That made the vein on ten mothers’ heads start throbbing! We’ve got a complete melt down in the 1st grade hall! Well done!”

“Cue jams for locker numbers 127, 359 and 785. Wait for it…wait for it! RELEASE! YES!!! Nailed them all in the head! Initiate lingering dead sock smell!”

“We’ve got escapees! How did they get done so fast?! Fire Drill! Time for a Fire Drill!”

After the bedlam has died down, they begin to assess the parents they broke. I picture Count Rugen from “The Princess Bride” after he sucked one year of Wesley’s life away, “So let’s just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterityso… be honest.” Then they start culling the herd. Only the strong survive.

Whatever the reason they do it this way, I managed to survive another year. Tomorrow is the first day of school. To all the teachers, bus drivers, school nurses, lunch supervisors…God speed. We parents appreciate you more than you can know.

 

 

First World Problems

I’ve made it two-thirds of the way through summer “vacation” and still have three children and one husband. There have been a few days where those stats were in doubt, but the cops haven’t been called yet, so I figure that’s a positive. However there are four weeks left and I’m really starting to feel the burn-out of being with my kids All. The. Damned. Time. I really need them to go back to school and leave me alone.

I’ve been wanting some “me” time and it’s been hard to come by lately. During the summer I only get to get away at odd times on the weekends when my husband is home. My usual weekday morning pick-me-up is a trip to my beloved Target sans kids. But even my random weekend trips there aren’t helping lately, and it’s all Target’s fault. My comfortable home-away-from-home is remodeling to give me a “better shopping experience.” Yeah, well I was just perfectly happy with my previous shopping experience, thanks. People who say “change is good” are full of shit.

target cartI used to be able walk in, stop in for a cup of caffeinated happiness at Starbucks and mosey on through the produce section, imagining all the healthy and delicious things I could cook for my beloved family — perhaps a delightful assortment of perfectly sautéed  vegetables alongside some grilled balsamic glazed lean protein with a nice side of quinoa with fresh herbs. Simple yet tasty, right?

Oh who the hell am I kidding? Like the inmates would ever get within 100 feet of that. Even my husband says, “I’m not eating any of that keen … kin… krap wah stuff.” Fine. I mean it’s not like I don’t personally flip off the organic kale as I glide on by it with my cart. (Seriously, people who say they love eating kale are the same ones who say “change is good” — they’re totally full of shit and we will never be friends.)

Never mind. Back to my culinary reality: broccoli and a few pieces of fruit it is and off I wander. I usually end up running into a fellow mom friend — her Starbucks cup in hand, a contented look upon her face, the stress and exhaustion fading away as the caffeine enters her system and soothes her strained vocal cords. We chitchat awhile, mutually complaining about our hateful children and promise to set up a play date soon. (Meh, those don’t happen enough, but it’s the thought that counts.)

If I’m feeling extra leisurely, I drift through the make-up aisle and think I really need to do something more with my eyebrows or something. That thought vanishes quickly as I realize I need to get toothpaste once again since my kids never manage to actually brush their teeth, yet there’s always at least a half tube of toothpaste smeared all over their bathroom. Ahhh. The smell of bubble mint and all the pee that’s missed the toilet. An olfactory delight.

Then I get up to the check-out and look for my favorite Target peeps. (Susan, Kimberly…You know who you are.) We get the quick down-low on each other’s lives as my purchases are effortlessly whisked through the register, have a few laughs, scan my Cartwheel and my Red Card and watch the total ratchet down. Oh the heady rush of a good discount! And then I stroll out to the mom mobile with my cart full of wonderful and a new outlook on life.

target remodelBut no. Now they’re screwing that all up. Instead of the calm that washes over me when I step foot inside Chez Tarjay, I feel dizzy and disoriented. I grab a cart and hold on for dear life as I crash into other dazed customers also looking for some semblance of normalcy. Tarps are blocking some areas, new displays are crammed together and hey! Where the hell is the iceberg lettuce and regular tomatoes? This better not mean I’m expected to buy kale fer crissake! GAWD NO! I continue to stumble through the rat-like maze of sleek new refrigerator units and shelving. Goddamnit! Where’s the f’ing Mrs. Buttersworth syrup and mango lemonade?? Crap! There’s going to be hell to pay if I don’t come home with that shit!

My blood pressure continues to elevate and I start feeling stabby and hostile. Employees try not to make eye contact with me so they don’t have to suffer my wrath, “WHERE’S THE GODDAMNED MRS. BUTTERSWORTH!?! No. NOT that Aunt Jemima shit or that fancy real maple syrup! MIS-SUS BUT-TERS-WORTH! The minions will be revolting in the morning if that crack isn’t on the table! WHERE IS IT?!?!

After violently hurling my cart aimlessly around the store some more with my fellow pissed off shoppers, I pass by the new cosmetics display. The sleek spotlights and mirrors just seem to mock me rather than lure me in to find the magical product that will make me look like I actually have eyebrows. By this time my nostrils are flaring and I’m cursing louder.

I wander over to the checkout lanes only to find 4 staffed lanes and those lines are full.  Since I’m not here during my regular time, a new front end manager approaches and says, “Our self-checkout lanes are open!” I huffed and rolled my eyes, “WHERE THE FUCK IS SUSAN!?!? She would find Kimberly, open a new lane and I would be rung up and outta here!” (I don’t know if I actually said this out loud or if it was just the insanity oozing out of my pores that was off-putting. The person looked nervous.)

I brace myself and head to the corrals of self-checkout registers. I feel like a goddamned veal as I’m forced into the pen of self-sufficiency. Moo!! I struggle to find the UPC codes — aww crap! That rang through twice and now I have to call someone over. *HUFF!* What’s the code for these weird calamari campari tomatoes?? NO! NOT KALE! GODDAMNIT!!!!!

By this time I’m a hot sweaty mess. Children are clutching their mother’s leg as they watch this feral bovine hurl her purchases into her cart. To make matters worse I had forgotten my reusable bags in the car (sorry Mother Earth. I suck.) I manage to blindly make my way to the exit with my receipt angrily clutched in my fist. SHIT! I FORGOT MY CARTWHEEL! Kimberly wouldn’t have forgotten my Cartwheel and would never have had to spun each item around 20 times looking for the stupid UPC. Change. Sucks.

*SIGH*

So yes, dear reader. These are my first world problems all caused by summer vacation and Target. I don’t know what that says about me. 1) My life is really pathetic, or 2) I’m a spoiled brat, or 3) Kale really is the answer and I’m screwed. Crap.

 

 

Bracing Myself for Summer

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I guess I’ve been feeling in a bit of a slump. Or maybe I’ve been overwhelmed by all of the end-of-the-year craziness of band concerts, recitals, everyone suffering through spring fever and just being done with the school year.
I keep reading how moms everywhere are so anxious for summer to come so they can do all sorts of fun stuff with their kids and relax. So here’s what I wonder: Am I living on the same planet? What kind of medication are they taking or giving to their children? How can I be doing things SO wrong? Or are they just lying their fool heads off in some mass mommy shaming conspiracy — or are gaslighting themselves??

Don’t get me wrong. We all need a break from the infinite demands of the school year — kids, parents and especially teachers. I get it. I’m looking forward to a little less structure for awhile.

June is great — everyone is reveling in the end of school, playing outside in the beautiful weather as much as they want and just taking a break from the hustle, bustle and responsibility of the school year. But then July hits like a hot steamy freight train. Playing outside is no longer fun, friends start hating on each other and the “I’m boooooored!” complaints come flying full-force. By August everyone is stabby and homicidal. I’m supposed to love spending all this quality time with my kids. They just make it really, really hard in the summer.

And do I need to even mention the messes that will be created 24/7? Oh yes, now not only do I have to nag them about cleaning their rooms, picking up their toys and the playroom inside, now that hell has expanded to the outdoors. Every bike, scooter, water toy, and piece of sports equipment will be drug out from the garage and basement and left outside…Every. Damned. Day. Then they will decide outside is too boring or too hot and will want to come inside with their friends to trash the inside of the house, eat their body weight in snacks and suggest elaborate picnics that I could make for them. God forbid they would actually clean up after themselves without me having to hound them 20,000 times. Maybe there’s a way I could get Alexa to nag for me. I know my kids think I enjoy being a raging lunatic by the end of the day, but no. Not so much.

I see article after article about creating “bucket lists” to accomplish over the summer. Or the conflicting articles saying we should just let our kids play and have fun (“The 70s summer”)… or we should structure our summers full of activities and educational experiences to keep away the boredom. Ugh. Which is it?!?

What it all really comes down to for me is the Mom Guilt. Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Have I made them read and do math flash cards enough so they don’t lose their hard earned skills over the summer months? Do all kids fight as much as mine? Do other moms yell as much as I do? Do they fight because I yell, or do I yell because they fight? Maybe I have been poisoning them with the copious amounts of sunscreen I make them wear. Where are the matches so I can set my hair on fire?

Oh. If one more person tells me that I need to get a pool pass and live there all summer, I will be setting their hair on fire. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of anxiety and very little patience. Keeping 3 children from drowning themselves or other kids in opposite ends of the pool is not my idea of a super relaxing time. I’m not even going to go into how much courage it takes me to don a swimming suit and strut around with my pasty white, hail-damaged thighs and arms all exposed. I’d rather jump out of a plane from 30,000 feet. I can’t be responsible for all of the emotional damage I will inflict from people having to see that.

So friends, I will be trying to keep a good attitude about summer break, but I can’t guarantee anything. If you see me wandering aimlessly around Target late at night (because that is the only time I will not have children with me for the next 3 months) — either avoid me completely if you’re not up for hearing an epic rant…or come give me a hug, a Starbucks and tell me I’m pretty.

PS — I need some blog topic ideas. If you have any, post them in the comments!

Spinning Plates

It’s been a rough couple of days for this mama, and frankly I’m pretty proud of myself that I haven’t curled up in a corner to ugly cry for an hour or drink heavily.

We spent the weekend in Iowa visiting my brother-in-law and his family. Aside from the 5+ hour car ride each way, it’s always a lot of fun for the kids and adults alike. The only time I nearly lost all of my shit this weekend was when I actually had to tell my son, “There is no way you can ‘accidentally’ bite someone’s butt!!” A weekend with minimal fighting (except for accidental butt bites) was actually pretty refreshing. Maybe my 3 nephews, 2 dogs, a basement arsenal of Nerf guns and all the sports equipment one could ask for are the key.

But coming home after a weekend of fun, late nights and long car rides, getting back into “real” life is as much fun as a case of The Gout. (More on that later.) Monday hit back… hard. I had one of those “spinning 12 plates at once” kinda mornings. It didn’t end well, as you will see.

spinning plates

I made my way to First Born Male Child’s (FBMC) room. I didn’t smell sulfur, so I went in. He was out cold, but after a calling his name a half dozen times, he stirred and muttered that he was up. Then he rolled over and went back to sleep. *sigh* I’d rattle his cage a little later. [Spins plate.]

Young Son (YS) was slightly easier to wake up after digging him out of his nest of covers and getting some of his better ticklish spots. [Spins plate.]

I stumbled downstairs and started the coffee, the blessed elixir of the morning. Amazon Warrior Princess (AWP) hurled herself out of her room, crazed hair and all, ready to attack the morning. YS sauntered downstairs bleary eyed and declared it to be a cold lunch day. Crap. Usually the rule is that hot vs. cold lunch has to be decided the day before. I didn’t feel like fighting and told him to start getting the stuff ready. [Spins plate.]

Now to wake up FBMC. I called upstairs. No answer. I called again, this time with an edge to my voice. Nada. I bellowed up, this time with nostrils flaring. It elicited a feeble, “what?” from him. “OHMYGAAWWWDDDD!!!! GET UUUUPPPP!!!” I heard muttering and shuffling around and hoped for the best. [Spins plate.]

AWP patiently hands me her pancake wrapped sausage on a stick she has gotten out so I could nuke it for her. “You got it sister. Way to be on the ball!” [Her plate was spinning just fine.]

Meanwhile, YS is assembling his lunch. “What do you want for breakfast, pal?” He huffs back, “I don’t KNOW! What IS there?” Because you know, breakfast food is such a freakin’ mystery! Every. Single. Day. “How ’bout PB&J?” I asked. He was down with that, so I doubled up the ingredients for my sandwich making. [Spins plate]

I realized I hadn’t heard anything from upstairs recently, so I called up, “Are you dressed???” I heard stumbling around, “no…” The vein on my forehead started to throb, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!! GET DRESSED!!!!!” I heard mumbling related to my lack of patience and overall parenting skills. [Angrily spins plate.]

coffee f bomb

Dear Husband (DH) finally comes downstairs. He was going to be leaving for 9 days in China in a little while, so he was oblivious to the building chaos since he was deep in Travel Mode. My surliness spiked as I contemplated the 9 days of being the only adult in our house. *sigh* I refilled my coffee and poured him a cup. [Spins plate.]

FBMC finally emerged from his room, still wearing his T-shirt he had worn to bed and pants he’d probably had on the day before. I didn’t want to know about the underwear. It pained me, but this time I let it go. I asked him if he’d fed his fish. He trotted back up, fed his fish and then proceeded to go back up and downstairs about a half dozen more times to get other “important” things he’d forgotten, like his favorite eraser. By this time, my blood pressure in the yellow zone and going higher. [Plates were starting to get wobbly.]

“Please get yourself some breakfast. You don’t have a lot of time!” This was answered by the same, “What IS there??” I got from his brother. (Why are my children trying to kill me by a million paper cuts???) YS cheerfully chimes in, “You could have eggs from IIIOOOWWWAAAAHHH!!!” Oh yes. Iowa eggs. My brother-in-law has 4 free-range chickens,

coop.jpg

and he’d sent some eggs home with us. FBMC had seen how they were collected and how non-pristinely clean they are when not purchased in a cardboard box from the store. “CHICKENS POOP EGGS! I’m NEVER eating anything with eggs again!!!” Once we reminded him that most of his favorite desserts had eggs in them (his whole reason for living,) he had to go think about that for awhile and reconsider his position on the matter. So when YS evilly suggested Iowa eggs as a breakfast option to see if he could make his brother explode, I may have given him my best “stop now or you will never touch an electronic device for as long as I’m alive” look. It must have worked, since he hunkered down and started shoving his PB&J in his mouth. Wise choice, young man. [More plates were looking wobbly.]

I don’t even know what FBMC ate for breakfast, since that was when the woman who cleans our house twice a month decided to walk in…a half an hour EARLY. (Yeah, I know…first world problems.) Normally she’s a welcome sight, but on a day like this one, she was the last thing I needed. The first of the plates started crashing as all momentum I had built came to a halt as she hauled her supplies inside. She started cleaning around the chaos and rearranging things I hadn’t had a chance to put away yet. (Why is it I spend more time cleaning for the cleaning person than any other time??) I started seeing stars and felt a small stroke coming on. [Crash! Crash!]

At that point, I looked at the clock: 3 MINUTES UNTIL THE BUS!!! SHIT!!!!! Shoes and socks were not on, coats and backpacks had walked off and hidden. I went into full-throttle yelling maniac drill sergeant mode. YS managed to pull things together while I ran outside and gave the bus driver the signal to wait a second. I went back inside only to find FBMC freaking out because his shoes were still WET from whatever hell he had gotten into while we were in Iowa! WHAT?!? Where were his other shoes?!! DH sprang into action and ran upstairs to find some while I shoved YS out the door to get on the bus. FBMC was going to miss it. Goddamnit! [Crash! Crash! Crash! SHATTER!]

The cleaning person had gone off to hide in a bathroom and clean. I figured she was in her own private hell, since let’s face it. YS couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn when he pees since he uses the “freestyle” method.

My stress level hit critical mass and I lost my shit. I think I may have sucked out all the air out of the room. FBMC finally got the hint that he needed to hustle and pulled himself together. We ran out to the garage only to find the Mom Mobile had been parked in. Okay. Where are the keys to DH’s car??? We roared down the driveway while I was giving FBMC an epic ass chewing for messing around and whatever other rants that came to mind.

I reached the entrance to the subdivision and finally got myself calmed down. This was not worth it. Really. Why am I such a freak? A couple miles down the road I apologized for being a lunatic and told him I loved him. Let’s try to do better tomorrow. He agreed and apologized as well. [Cue swelling feel-good music.]

This healing moment was short lived as I turned on the left turn signal, which started blinking rapidly. Fanfuckingtastic. Guess I’ll have to get that fixed too while DH is away. A few blocks later I nearly got t-boned by an irate woman who couldn’t see my dysfunctional turn signal. Excellent.

By the time I arrived back home, DH was working away in his office maximizing his time with WiFi before the car came to take him to the airport. I went upstairs to check the kids’ rooms to strip beds and re-clean what they hadn’t so the cleaning person could do actual real cleaning. (It’s madness.) I found a flashlight hidden under FBMC’s bed. BINGO! I KNEW he was staying up reading! Well, at least that answered one question.

I went back downstairs to say good-bye to DH. As we hugged, he must have been thinking that his 14 hour flight was looking pretty luxurious and peaceful compared to this morning’s private hell. I would agree. Off he went and I felt further deflated.

I’d like to say the day got better. I guess it sort of did since I had a clean house for all of 3 hours until the boys came home. I tucked AWP in her room with the iPad and let her have at it. This mama needed a nap. After the boys got home the rest of the evening was the regular crap of homework, dinner, and bedtime routine. Sweet freedom. I lived through the day. Tomorrow would be better. I went to bed early.

Well, not so much. 12:30 AM: “MOOOMMMM!!!!” I go into YS’s room and was hit with a giant wave of barf smell. I turned on the light. It looked like the morning after a frat party. [Cue dry heaves.] I got him washed up, every piece of bedding off and in the washing machine, re-made his bed and put him back to sleep with a bowl.

I crawled back into my own bed, only to have insomnia for the next 2 hours. I tracked DH’s flight. He was still over northern China and hadn’t landed yet. I’m sure at that point the plane smelled only slightly better than YS’s room had. At least we were both suffering, albeit hemispheres apart. Misery loves company.

I know we all have days where everything goes off the rails, sometimes more epically than others. But it’s those days where I find myself filled with the most self-doubt and self-loathing. Why can’t I hold my shit together longer like a normal person? I need to revisit my “3 Gs” of the new year: Gratitude, Grace and Goodness. I need to be grateful for what I have, give others more grace to be human and make mistakes and really notice the goodness around me. What if my mother witnessed my days like this? Surely I would get the saddest, most disappointed head-shaking look imaginable. I wouldn’t blame her.

Tomorrow is another day. Gratitude. Grace. Goodness. I can do it.

Oh yeah. So “The Gout.” My brother-in-law has been suffering with a case of The Gout. Now please note, it’s not “gout” — it’s “The Gout.” Sorta like “The Plague” is it’s own official thing. It brought back memories of my grandpa. I don’t have a ton of them about him, but I do remember this: he religiously took his “gout pills” every day. He would shuffle over to the cabinet by the stove, get down this big old-school amber glass apothecary jar

jar

and take his daily gout pill. “I don’t ever want to get The Gout again!” (In case you don’t know what “The Gout” is, it’s a form of acute arthritis that is caused by uric acid crystals building up, usually in your big toe. It’s excruciatingly painful and your foot feels like it’s on fire.) After he took his pill, he would shuffle over to his favorite chair, unlace his dress boots that he wore every day (along with suspenders and a long-sleeved dress shirt) and read the paper.

redman

That or he’d head out to the garage through the squeaky screen door and have a chew of Red Man chewing tobacco, of which he always had a not-so-secret stash of in the backseat of his car that forever had a not altogether unpleasant molasses-y smell. Over 30 years later and I still remember.

Maybe that will be my 4th G. Don’t get The Gout.

Child Car Seats are from Hell

Recently I had to take the mom mobile into the dealer to have some work done on it. Normally, I try to suck it up and wait if it’s not too long, but this was supposed to take 4 hours. Waiting to have work done on your car is about as fun as getting work done at the dentist. Add a 3 year old to that scene, and it’s like getting that dental work done sans Novocain. So that meant I had to get a ride home and back again from the dealer, which included wrestling with with Amazon Warrior Princess’ car seat. Multiple times. [Insert whimpering here.]

Since I was going to have to take her car seat out of the car anyway, I had the brilliant idea that I could take this opportunity to move her into a bigger car seat. I had one stored in the basement from when my youngest son was her age, and I couldn’t remember why I never liked it. But I lugged it upstairs anyway.

carseatNow I know others will back me up on this, but I’m beginning to think there’s some plot that car seat and automobile manufacturers are colluding to see if they can send parents over the edge when it comes to car seat installation. If you look at the online videos of how to properly install a car seat, it looks as easy as making a simple cup of coffee. The perfectly made up mom, deftly plops the car seat in, click, click, click, tug, tug, tug, wiggle, wiggle and voila! Away she goes, not a hair out of place.

When I presented her with the new seat-of-honor, AWP squealed with delight. This snazzy model had a cup holder — only the cool kids get their own cupholder. She immediately plopped herself in and tried to buckle herself up. Problem was, the straps were set for someone half her height. Ah ha! NOW I remembered why I hated this thing: adjusting all the straps required an advance mechanical engineering degree and the hand strength of a professional milkmaid, both of which I lacked. After referencing online manuals, employing the use of a pliers and plenty of cursing and sweating while fending off an impatient preschooler, 30 minutes later I had conquered the beast. AWP got herself a juice box for the cupholder, took her place upon her new throne in the middle of the kitchen and was content. Have at it, sister.

 

Now when I was a kid, child safety seats weren’t really a thing. I had one when I was really little, but it was this big, black vinyl behemoth that I could climb out of and was rarely used. In fact, it wasn’t until I was learning how to drive that anyone really used seat belts in our car (except when we were on long car rides on the highway, the logic being bad accidents only happened at higher speeds.) Heck — when I was in kindergarten, my dad even built a wooden box “booster” covered in carpeting so I could sit in the middle of the bench seat up front and could see over the dashboard of our Oldsmobile 88. This was also before airbags, and I’m guessing I wasn’t buckled up then either. They should have just put a cape and go-go boots on me — hello projectile kid.

Luckily safety in general has come along way since I was little. Kids wear sunscreen in the summer, helmets when they bike or rollerblade and are buckled into an age-appropriate car seat or booster in the car. But did you know that according to the NHTSA, on average 46% of those car seats are installed incorrectly??!! Honestly, it’s not for lack of trying either. As parents we can only do the best that we can with the information available to us. And sometimes that gets overwhelming, confusing and nearly impossible.

So by the time I dropped my car off at the dealer, wrestled the old car seat into the porter’s hamster-powered car after moderate cursing and struggling, I was pretty much a wreck. The poor porter, who I think started shaving last week, looked pretty worried. He kept his hands white-knuckled at 10 and 2 and silently prayed that the crazed woman next to him wouldn’t go completely feral. As the landscape on the ride to our house turned somewhat rural, I think I heard him whimper, as I think he was listening for the sounds of banjos playing or something. We finally made it home, and I wrestled the car seat out of the back once again, leaving a trail of crushed goldfish crackers, fossilized french fries and God knows what else behind on the seat. I’ve never seen someone so relieved to pull out of our driveway. I’m guessing that was a really high-stakes game of Rock-Paper-Scissors back at the shop when the porters had to decide who was going to pick me up again the next day.

I guess the moral of this meandering story is that we can only try our best as parents to keep our kids safe and secure. We somehow managed to survive our own childhoods with our parents who were doing the best that they could. Our kids will too with a little luck, YouTube how-to videos and a screwdriver (the tool and the cocktail.)

img_20180228_142436488.jpg