This Is Childhood

“You’re going to want to write it down. All of it.”

My friend, a mother herself, smiled knowingly as she presented the journal she’d fashioned from an old marble copybook. It bumped my pregnant belly as she handed it to me. Everything bumped my belly in my ninth month of pregnancy.

She turned out to be right. I spent hours hunched over that journal during my oldest son’s first year of life. When I flip through its pages now, it’s a testimonial both of his growth and of my transition–emotional and anxious–to mother. Is he OK? Am I OK? Am I doing any of this right?    

When my second son was born, the journal was store bought and smaller in scale. The entries were just as fraught with emotion. They hinted at a growing maternal confidence. But they were documented much less frequently. He seems OK. Are we OK? Am I doing more right than wrong?

In the haze after my third son arrived, I scribbled down the details, “9lbs 2 oz, 23 ½ inches,” ripped the note off its pad and slapped it on top of his brothers’ journals on my nightstand. That’s the closest I came to a journal entry with him.

And, no. My fourth son didn’t even get the impersonal stats on a loose-leaf sheet.

Over time, I have accumulated a stack of sticky notes. Here is what they say:

“Paw-crits = paw-prints“

“Fun-quints = footprints”

“Ge-go = here you go”

“What o’clock is it = what time is it”

“Ya got crumbs = Do you need to shave”

“Leepeet = syrup”

“Lasterday = yesterday or any day before today”

All phrases coined by my kids at different ages. Journal-worthy. Indelible.

Individually, each captures a moment in time.

Together, it feels as though they are all that is left of my favorite years with my babies.

They belong in a journal.

Soon I will have one.

This Is Childhood

This Is Childhood

This is Childhood contains heartfelt essays about every year of the first decade of childhood. It provides writing prompts for those times when the words need some coaxing.

I finally took the time to write about my sweet third born. He was the inspiration for the book’s Age Six. I’m so proud to be a part of this collection and have my words sandwiched among those of so many beautiful writers.

This is Childhood is a perfect gift for Mother’s Day.

Somebody please tell my husband;-)

Because I still want to write it down. All of it.

God on High, Once is Enough

Imagine a Mom. A Mom with a deep crease in her forehead and saggy boobs.

You know.

A Regular Mom.

Imagine that Regular Mom has a husband and four sons. The poor girl is substantially outnumbered. No wonder that crease is so deep. So many boys. So little meaningful conversation. That Regular Mom with the deep crease and the saggy boobs longs to get the lowdown from her boys after school every day. How was that brownie I put in your lunch? Who did you sit with? Were your friends kind to you? Did you laugh today? What made you laugh?

But pfffft. Those boys of hers aren’t wired for chit chat. They come home from school, dump their bags precariously in the entryway where Regular Mom will trip on them, load their pockets with cheeseballs and head straight for the trampoline to beat the piss out of one another. So Regular Mom…that saint of a woman…heads into the kitchen to prepare seventeen different dishes that will be consumed by five males in the span of three minutes. She turns on Howard Stern–at least he’ll talk to her–and hopes that tonight’s dinner conversation does not include any sound, smell, or mention of flatulence. Just this once.

Regular Mom has a tough pill to swallow every March. Her kids have THE LONGEST SPRING BREAK EVER. Eleven days off from school.

In a row.

And that includes the weekends because oh yes they do so fucking count.

Many months ago, she researched what it would cost to fly that sizable family out to Arizona to visit her sister for a portion of that eleven day nut punch. A quick Google search showed that it costs too many American dollars to put six winter-weary butts on a plane headed West in the month of March.

Regular Mom’s parents don’t like shoveling snow, so they spend the cold winter months in Florida. Regular Mom did a quick Google search on the price of flights to Florida, and it turns out it costs too many American dollars to fly six people there in March too.

“Son of a motherless goat,” she said, “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle before I do another eleven day staycation with crowd.”

Her offspring wouldn’t know a dinner conversation that didn’t include the word “fart” if it came up and bit them on their gassy little asses, but Regular Mom still wanted to connect with each and every one of her sons.

So she Googled the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge.

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Indoor Water Park Extravaganza

Here is what she learned.

It costs $500 to:

  • frolic about in an indoor water park in ankle deep water that is arguably 50% urine from the bladders of other people’s kids,

  • spend the night in a smaller bed than she’s used to in one room that will sleep her entire family,

  • wrestle on a bathing suit unexpectedly three months earlier than she usually dreads doing, and

  • leave exhausted with the high likelihood of plantar warts in her near future.

So she said to her husband, “WHAT KIND OF A RACKET IS THIS?”

But Regular Mom’s husband said, “Think of our third son. That boy loves being in the water more than anything. Picture the look of excitement on his face when we tell him we’re going. It’s well worth the price of admission merely to see the happiness in his eyes.”

And Regular Mom thought her husband made a good point. Boy #3 is a patient soul with an infectious smile and a pure heart. So she confirmed the overnight arrangements with the vision of her elated third born son’s face in her mind’s eye. And a twitch in her actual eye from the exorbitant price of admission.

Regular Mom bought several pairs of new goggles on the sly. She crept up the stairs into the frigid, dark attic–a space not fit for a full grown adult which forces her to navigate all the clothing bins on her knees–to locate and launder the bathing suits. She packed the overnight bags surreptitiously. So great was her anticipation of her third son’s excitement, that she smiled and chuckled aloud as she prepared for their surprise overnight trip.

And when the time came to share the news with their four sons of the trip to the often-talked-about-but-never-before-visited Great Wolf Lodge, Regular Mom and her husband assembled the children at the table.

“Please guess where we are taking you.”

“Lolly and Poppy’s New Jersey beach house.”

“No.”

“Lolly and Poppy’s Florida beach house.”

“No.”

“Arizona.”

“No.”

“Why not Arizona? I want to go to Arizona. You said we would go to Arizona one day.”

“Stop complaining. Keep guessing.”

“The Oreland Swim Club.”

“No, but close.”

“I don’t have any more guesses.

…This is a stupid game.

…Can’t you just tell us already?

…Can I watch a show?”

“OK, boys, Dad and I are taking you to…”

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he reached out and squeezed her hand. They smiled because a moment like this–when you make an announcement that elicits pure joy in the people you love so fiercely and completely–this is what makes all of the sleepless nights and the backtalk and the bad pre-teen Disney shows and the vomiting on fresh sheets at 2AM worth it. This is the moment.

“We are taking you to…

…GREAT! WOLF! LODGE!!!!”

Regular Mom craned her neck around her youngest son and looked expectantly at her third son, the sweetheart of the bunch, the boy whose smile warms her all the way to her toes.

“What?” he stammered, “WHAT?!”

“Yes!” Regular Mom nodded and clapped. “Great Wolf Lodge! The indoor water park! What do you think?!”

And her third son yelled, “I’M NOT GOING IN THE WATER! AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” And then he covered his crestfallen face with his hands, laid his head on the table, and proceeded to cry. Hysterically.

Not the happy tears.

Regular Mom looked at her husband, and he looked back at her. And there was no need to speak. Because they were both thinking the same thing.

This, unfortunately, is what parenting is about.

Parenting is thinking you’ve got it so perfectly right…only to discover you couldn’t have been more wrong.

Parenting is the illusion of a whole lotta YES…and the reality of OH, HELL NO.

Not just one NO.

A series of NO’s.

NO’s that get progressively louder and borderline violent.

Welcome to parenthood! Jump in, the water’s great! We’re swimming in somebody else’s pee, but honestly. It couldn’t be better. Embrace the unpredictability!

They dried the tears of their third born son, hurried the children into the car just as the snow began falling, and drove North towards their destination. What should have been a ninety minute drive became ninety minute drive + sixty additional tense minutes. Because four kids.

They checked into the hotel. Donned their bathing suits. Scarfed down Uncrustables. Distributed goggles. And down to the water park the six of them schlepped.

When they were finally together as a family in the pool–before the lifeguard whistled at the oldest son for pulling the second born under water, and before the other lifeguard whistled at the youngest for taking a running leap into the pool and cannon-balling his tiny muscular frame onto the heads and necks of unsuspecting strangers, and before Regular Mom threatened her husband that if he dared to take one more picture she would rip that expensive lens off his camera and send it down the party slide in an oversized raft–Regular Mom and her husband shared a smile. They were surrounded by their children…no one crying, no one in trouble, no one demanding a snack, no one having to poop…and life was good.

Regular Mom stood contentedly in four feet of disturbingly warm water, waiting for her youngest son to launch himself into her arms, when she felt a tap on her leg underwater. She turned to find her third son breaking the surface of the pool.

“Hi, Mom,” he smiled.

“Hi, sweetheart,” she smiled back. Her smile grew bigger as she noticed his goggles weren’t properly suctioned. His eyes were swimming in little pools of water behind those goggles.

“Sorry I was in a bad mood about coming to Great Wolf Lodge, Mom,” he said quietly.

“That’s OK, buddy.”

“I thought we were going to the Lego Store, Mom. I really just wanted to go to the Lego Store. But this is fun.”

“I’m glad you’re having a good time,” What a precious boy.

“Mom, can I ask you a question?”

“Absolutely, buddy.”

He looked over both his shoulders, swam up almost on top of her and asked, “Mom, would you sacrifice yourself for me?”

What’s that now?

Regular Mom chewed on the inside of her mouth to avoid smiling, “Without hesitation.”

“Does that mean yes or no?”

“That means yes. And twice on Sunday’s,” she nodded, as she kissed his wet forehead.

“Twice on Sunday’s? What is that, Mom?”

“It means yes. I would sacrifice myself for you,” it took all her effort to keep a straight face. Especially with the chlorine rolling directly into her eyes.

He nodded his head. Looked over his shoulders once again. Emptied his goggles, dove under water, and swam off without so much as a glance back at Regular Mom.

Sacrifice myself? She wondered what he could possibly be talking about when her reverie was broken by her youngest son’s wet, flying body. Which struck her square on the side of the head.

“You were supposed to catch me!” he spat the words at her. Along with some pool water for good measure.

Once she regained her faculties and was no longer seeing two, three, and four of her children…oh, wait, that’s how many kids she actually has…she swam over to her husband.

“I don’t know what #3 has planned, but he just swam up to me like the Loch Ness fucking Monster and asked me if I would sacrifice myself for him.”

Her husband raised his eyebrows and nodded his head, “Really?” he asked. “That’s interesting. Because he asked me earlier if I know anyone who had fallen into a ravine and survived.”

Hang on, what?

“Let’s keep our eye on that kid,” Regular Mom said.

“And let’s not make plans to visit the Grand Canyon anytime soon.”

“Good call,” Regular Mom agreed.

Regular Mom, her husband, and sons enjoyed hours at the indoor water park. They stayed until well after their two younger sons’ bedtimes. They stayed until Regular Mom could feel the sting of chlorine on her eyeballs when she wasn’t even in the pool. She worried maybe the fine people of Great Wolf Lodge were vaporizing the chlorine and pumping it into the air supply to compensate for all of the peeing in the pools, and that’s when she gave her family the high sign. They trudged up the four flights of stairs to their room, and decided on sleeping arrangements.

The younger two, who were exhausted, would share the pullout sofa bed since it sat on the opposite side of a partitioned wall and offered a modicum of privacy and quiet.

The oldest boy announced, “I’m not sleeping with my other brother,” and both Regular Mom and her husband groaned.

Because that meant one of them had to share a bed with that action.

Non-stop kicking. Sideways sleeping. Talking in his sleep. Walking in his sleep. Night terrors. Hogging of covers. That’s what it’s like to share a bed with their second born son. He is a beacon of light during the day. And the angel of death in slumber.

“Fine. I’ll sleep with him,” Regular Mom’s husband grumbled. The light went out in his eyes as the gravity of the night ahead of him sunk in.

It had been a long time since Regular Mom had slept in the same bed with her oldest son. When he flopped on the bed as far away from her as possible without rolling onto the floor, she was reminded of how much he’d grown and how twelve year old boys pretty much altogether suck.

She smiled at him and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoon with you.”

He rolled his eyes, and replied, “As usual I don’t know what you’re talking about, but don’t touch me, old lady,” and then he flipped his head so she wouldn’t breathe on his face.

Regular Mom doesn’t pray very often. But, lying in an overpriced room with her family, sharing an undersized bed with her oldest son got her thinking. These are the people I love most in the world. They are my reason. Every day.

And Regular Mom was overcome with emotion.

Mostly that emotion was dread.

She lay next to her firstborn son–whose voice is deeper, whose shoulders are broader, whose feet are as big as his grandfather’s, whose upper lip is covered in peach fuzz, whose hormones are raging–and Regular Mom prayed.

“God on high, Hear my prayer. In my need, you have always been there. He is young. He’s afraid. Let him rest. Heaven blessed.”

It was just like Jean Val jean singing over Marius in Les Miserables.

Except it was nothing like that.

Because, it was night two of her period.

The night her uterus bleeds with the vengeance of five uteruses.

Uteri?

So her prayer went more like this:

Dear Patron Saint of Heavy Periods,

Please hear and answer my prayer. My son is 12 years old. It’s an uncomfortable age. That was a particularly awkward year for me. I remember flashes of sequins and a favorite pair of fluorescent striped corduroys.  Please, PLEASE do not let me bleed all over these white sheets.  I have nowhere to hide. If I leak, if my oldest child wakes in a pool of his mother’s uterine lining, he will be scarred for life. More scarred than I was by that awful haircut I had at 12 years old. And I’m still carrying that around.

So, um, Amen?  

Regular Mom only slept about 45 minutes total that night, so scared was she that she would bleed all over the shared bed and damage her son irrevocably.

So she lay awake all night long.

And early the next morning, when she shimmied her way out of bed, she smiled. It had been a perfect, leak-free, sleepless night. Her 12 year old son’s delicate psyche would remain intact. At least until the next family vacation.

Regular Mom’s husband had already left the reservation to take pictures get her a Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why's my coffee so cold?

Is that the sun coming up? Nice shot. Say, why’s my coffee so cold?

She made mental notes about the day ahead. There was packing to do and breakfast to make and hours more fun to be had. But for now, she would let her boys sleep.

Regular Mom crept over to peek around the partition at her two younger sons, who were just stirring.

“Mom, can you lay with us?” whispered the third son.

They made space for her between them, and she slipped under the sheets and wrapped her arms around her third and fourth babies.

“Mom, what o’clock is it?” asked the youngest.

“It’s still dark outside,” she whispered. “That means it’s the perfect o’clock for you to lay with Mommy.”

“Mom, are we gonna come here again? To Great Wolf Lodge?” asked her third son.

Regular Mom replied, “Well, we’re going to have fun at the waterpark again today. But I don’t know if we’ll come back after that. For our family, I think visiting Great Wolf Lodge once is probably enough.”

The two boys snuggled up against her, she kissed the tops of their heads and whispered, “This is the best part of my day.”

Her third son reached his arms around her neck and gave her an unexpected hug. He gazed up at her with that face that melts her heart and said,  “Mom, does that mean we can go to the Lego Store tomorrow? Because I really only wanted to go to the Lego Store this spring break.”

***

And that, my friends, is what spring break looks like in the life of a Regular Mom.

Just add nine more days.

Word.

 

A Book, A Contest, And a Hell of a Sandwich

You know that saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none”? That’s me right now.

Actually, that’s a bit of a stretch.

Overwhelmed Mother of four who is dropping balls right and left, who has abandoned Weight Watchers, who hasn’t cooked a vegetable this calendar month, but is surprisingly well versed in this season’s talent on both American Idol and The Voice. Who may also have a teeny tiny simultaneous crush on Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and Harry Connick Jr.

Well, yes, that sounds about right.

I was talking to someone recently, describing how I feel a little overextended. And by talking, I mean crying. I don’t know if it was the twitching of my eye or the dusting of confectioner’s sugar across my chin, but she hit me with some hardcore Oprah.

“You know what Oprah says. ‘You can only do three things well at one time.’”

Fucking Oprah.

I hate it when she’s right.

And she’s always fucking right.

Except for the time she laid into James Frey about A Million Little Pieces. She went too far that time.

So I thought about what three things I’m doing well in my life right now.

Eating? Yes. I’m eating semi-well, but I’m chasing two of three meals a day with chocolate. And I now need a late afternoon coffee to get me through the dark hours otherwise known as homework, baths, dinner, and bedtime. You know, the quality family hours. Also, I’ve made this ironclad contract with myself that pizza should be consumed with beer. And beer goes best with two slices of pizza + the cheese from Waldorf’s pizza.

So eating? Maybe not so well.

Sleeping? Yes, I’m sleeping. But every single morning at 4 AM, the cat pushes the bedroom door open, jumps onto the bed, climbs across my husband and begins grooming my hair and face with her long claws and her sandpaper tongue. And it fucking hurts. And her cat breath stinks. I have to envelop myself in a cocoon of covers, but I’m mildly claustrophobic, so as soon as I start panicking that I can’t breathe, I peel the covers back and BOOM! That bitch is on me again.

So sleeping? Not doing it well.

Wifely duties? I’ve been wearing flannel pajama bottoms like it’s my job. I pair them with a hideous bright blue sweatshirt with a penguin emerging from a Superman emblem on the front. It came with the entry fee to a local five mile race. It’s as comfortable as it is unflattering.

So wifely duties? Negative.

Mom stuff? I’m on top of the sorting, the washing, and the drying of the laundry. The folding? Not so much.

Would you like to have a seat?

Would you like to have a seat?

I’ve announced, “It’s breakfast for dinner!” at least four out of seven nights a week since…oh, I don’t know…Thanksgiving. We are down to one presentable pair of pants for each of my kids. And by presentable I mean I fully expect you to ignore the gaping hole in the left knee and the fact that said pants are short enough that my kid’s ankles are showing.

All things Mom? Not setting the world on fire.

Exercise schedule? I was fully prepared to run on the treadmill the other day. I noticed that the snow-blower is parked directly in the treadmill’s path on my back patio. It looks like it weighs five gazillion pounds. It’s on wheels, and I probably could have tried to move it. But that seemed like a lot of fuss, so I ditched my run and headed straight to the fridge to bust out four rectangles of chocolate. Oh, come on, it was dark chocolate.

Working out? Meh.

Breathing? Involuntary breathing is a no-brainer. Yoga-matching-my-movements-to-my-breath-breathing? I suck. I keep holding my breath in yoga class when something hurts. And don’t roll your eyes, that shit is hard. And every time my instructor tells me to be present and bring my breath to where I feel uncomfortable, I find myself wondering if that means I should blow on my left hip and then I wish I were somewhere else. Eating chocolate. Yes, dark chocolate. Jeez.

So, breathing? Don’t hold your breath.

Writing? I have so many stories. So very many stories. If you’re Facebook friends with me, you’ve probably noticed that my status updates are breaking records for number of characters used to communicate one stinking thought. And, yes, I did see M. Night Shymalan, and yes, I did lean across an unsuspecting Waldorf and scream, “You are the BEST! The BEST!” And I didn’t feel at all embarrassed except when I added, “Woohoo, go Philly!” I’ll admit, that was possibly the geekiest thing I’ve ever yelled across my oldest child at a famous movie director. But I like to think he appreciated it. Is this a blog post begging to be written? Absolutely. Add it to the list. The list right below the Costco list that is growing faster than my kids, who don’t own a pair of pants that actually fit them. Oh, but do me a solid and add “Superfruits” to that Costco list because we’re all out. Thanks.

So, writing? On Facebook, yes. Stringing sentences together to create paragraphs containing a beginning, middle, and end? Nope.

If I think hard–really hard–about something I’m doing well right now, I can come up with one thing. And it’s three words, so it may have to count as three things.

1. Buffalo

2. Chicken

3. Sandwiches

Boom!

We’re eating them once, sometimes twice, a week. And the older boys only complain that they’re too spicy to consume every other time I make them. So, I’m killing it—half the time—with the buffalo chicken sandwiches.

Take that, Oprah.

You know who is doing three things well right now?

My husband. Yes, B&B is handling his juggling act with ease, and he has JUST as big a crush as I do on Adam, Blake, and Harry. Except he looks way hotter than I do right now. Because of the Weight Watchers fail/no vegetables consumed/eating my feelings in chocolate situation.

This summer, it will be twenty years since he, a very tall, deeply tan, alarmingly handsome boy whose name I didn’t yet know, leaned over to me and said, “I’d like to buy you a drink, but the bar just closed. Where will you be on Saturday night? I’ll make sure I’m there too.”

I haven’t been able to shake him since and, believe me, I’ve tried. If I had to list three things he is doing well as an individual, they are three things that also make us work as a unit.

1. He is the bomb diggity of all Dads. He plays with the kids. And has actual fun doing it. And he likes to help them with their homework if they have questions. The dreaded math questions are his favorites to answer. He reads to them, he bathes them, and he disciplines them. Not as well as I do, but still, he is an active participant in the raising of our children.

2. He has interests outside of mine. For instance, I find Ultimate Fighting barbaric. He cannot get enough of it. He is an adrenaline junky. I prefer predictable (read boring) routine. He needs to understand how things work. I just like to know that things are indeed working. He hates doing the dishes. Oh, wait, that’s not a good example.

3. He lets me do my thing. (My thang?) Whatever my thing is, he supports me. These days, that thing is writing. He is even supportive when I write about him.

I wrote a story about B&B and his hobbies, and I got lucky enough that it landed in a book. And I did not throw him under the bus. Not this time at least. It is surrounded by hilarious stories written by some of the funniest broads on the internet. It’s all about the men in our lives. It’s called I Just Want to Be Alone, and it’s the sequel to I Just Want to Pee Alone.

Real books. That is my thing. I’m lucky to have a husband who supports my writing, and I am so enormously grateful to Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat for carving out a spot for me in both of these anthologies.

I really want you to do a girl a favor and buy the new book.

I said this to my husband. I said it because it's true.

I said this to my husband. I said it because it’s true.

It’s funny. And laughter is good. It heals. It gives you laugh lines. Laugh lines are the sign of a happy person. Buy this book. Laugh. It makes me happy to make you happy. Help me help you.

I’ve teamed up with my co-authors from Pennsylvania to give away five copies of I Just Want to Be Alone for free. Meredith of The Mom of the Year, Stephanie of When Crazy Meets Exhaustion, Christine of Keeper of The Fruit Loops, and I are bound by the polar vortex nightmare that has been this PA winter. We are bound by a love of story-telling that inspires us to look at the chaos of our lives–polar vortex included–through the lens of humor. Most importantly, our stories are bound together–polar vortex not included–in the pages of this kick ass book.

Four winners will receive a copy of I Just Want to Be Alone. One especially lucky winner will receive a copy of the book and a $25 Amazon gift card. I know. Totally awesome. If contests are your thing, you can enter this contest to win the book by clicking on the Rafflecopter below. The contest ends at midnight on March 26th, 2014, and winners will be contacted via email. To enter, you must be 18 or older and live in the continental U.S.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make dinner. Guess what we’re having?

Is Anybody Listening?

Fact: Nobody in this house listens to me.

Observation: When someone chooses not to listen to me, that someone gets hurt.

Fact: Not as the result of telepathy or voodoo, nor by my hand.

Observation: I don’t particularly like eating humble pie, but holding back the words “Well, I told you so, numb nuts,” can be just as tough.

Another Fact: I run.

Observation: It keeps me sane.

Fact: B&B runs.

Observation: This format is annoying, so I’m just going to tell the story. But first, one more fact.

Fact: Someone didn’t listen to me. And that someone is hobbling around with an injury. Related? You be the judge.

***

I run. I just do. For lots of reasons. Mostly to cope with the fact that no one listens to me and then people get hurt.

Three years ago, you non-runners may have noticed an ugly footwear trend among the running community. The Five Finger shoes. As if you didn’t already have enough reason to laugh and point at us. They really are aesthetically ridiculous. I was among the first laughing and pointing.

“Look at that fool tricked out with those ridiculous things on his feet. They aren’t sneakers, they are foot gloves! Freakishly ugly foot gloves. I know he has toes, but I don’t need to see each little piggy in all its individual glory.”

I’d done the same thing with the capri trend back in 1998.

“What exactly is she wearing? The choices are simple: shorts or pants. Please commit to one, you just cannot have it both ways.”

I was guilty in the year 2000 of laughing and pointing at Uggs as well.

“$100 for those ugly clodhoppers? Save your money. They’ll never make it beyond this season.”

I type this wearing my capri pants and Ugg boots, while choking down a slice of humble pie with a side of irony. I don’t know where my writing will take me, but I’m fairly sure it won’t land me a gig penning fashion trends.

Have you ever slipped your feet into a pair of Uggs? Sweet Jesus. It’s like walking on warm clouds.

Capris are a genius solution to the tricky bastard I call knee fat. It happens to all of us sooner or later, ladies. As luck would have it, the capri trend arrived before the invention of the shorts with the 3” inseam. Because, post childbirth, 3 inches is the exact measurement that my butt cheeks now rest, collecting perspiration, along the backs of my thighs.

Just like capris and Uggs, the benefits of those Five Finger shoes outweigh the curb appeal. So, yes, of course I bought them. And they were expensive, so luckily the humble pie that came along with them was free. I also bought a pair of racing flats, which are not nearly as ugly, but have arguably less support. Probably not, but this is my story, so I’m rubber/you’re glue. I purchased both pairs with the understanding that I would transition to my running in them slowly and gradually. An abrupt change would almost definitely result in immediate injury.

No problem. People remark to me all the time, “You’re so patient,” and, “I don’t know how you do it, I don’t have the patience,” and, “Sure, your house is a pigsty, but hey, are those Uggs you’re wearing?”

I thought I had enough patience to parent four sons AND gradually transition my running from stability shoes to barefoot.

Not So Fun Fact: I was wrong. It takes all my patience to parent the kids.

I prematurely wore my racing flats during a 5K race. And developed plantar fasciitis as a result. In exchange for my stupidity, I earned a 3 month mandatory break from running. It happened to be the exact same 3 months that the boys were on summer vacation, fueling B&B’s ongoing argument that “there is no god.” I also can’t walk around with bare feet. Ever. Even in my house. Which is actually OK because Legos underfoot hurt. Also, it fuels my argument, “the first to feel the crumbs under his feet should be the first to wield the Swiffer.” That’s not working out as well as I’d hoped.

What’s the lesson here?

Be careful what you mock or you may find yourself injured while your children are home for 90 consecutive days.

***

So, B&B runs. For lots of reasons. Most of them involve fancy concepts like resting heart rates and VVO2 max.

One day he whizzed past me in the kitchen. “I’m going to get racing flats.”

“Oooh, that’s a terrible idea. You need patience for that,” I laughed.

Never once in his life has anyone ever accused my husband of having patience. Is he resourceful? Yes. Is he relentless? Hell, yes! Patient? Never ever ever ever.

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Transitioning to racing flats requires patience. I rushed into it. That’s how I developed plantar fasciitis.”

“You had plantar fasciitis?”

Do you see what I mean? NOBODY LISTENS TO ME.

“Yes, dear. Don’t you remember I couldn’t run for 3 months? And I slept in that godforsaken sock in the heat of summer? It’s why I am wearing flip flops in the house right now. It’s why I always wear shoes in the house. I can’t go barefoot ever again.”

“I thought you just liked flip flops. Anyway, I’m getting the racing flats.”

“I’d like to go on record as opposing this idea. I have really high arches. You have flat feet. We are both at high risk for developing plantar fasciitis, and if I don’t have the patience to do it properly, there’s no chance you do.”

“Is that a challenge?”

“It’s an irrefutable fact, Jack.”

“Don’t call me Jack. Where did you get your information about flat feet being prone to plantar fasciitis? I’d like the source, please.”

“I don’t know. I read it somewhere. 3 years ago when I had plantar fasciitis.”

“If you can’t cite the source, maybe you made it up.”

“Why would I make it up?”

“To win this argument.”

“I am not trying to argue with you. I’m on your side.”

“It doesn’t sound like it.”

“I’m on the side of plantar fasciitis sucks, and I don’t want you to develop it. That’s your side.”

“Hmm.”

Within a few hours, he was the proud new owner of racing flats. Because nobody. listens. to. me.

And he ran in them. And he didn’t develop plantar fasciitis. I sat one morning and reflected on this. I guess I was wrong. I was actually relieved to be wrong.

I was poised to eat my self-imposed slice of humble pie when B&B limped into the kitchen. “My foot hurts.”

“Did you drop something on it?”

“No, it hurts on the bottom.”

“Did you step on a Lego?”

“No, it hurts where my arch meets my heel.”

“Ooooh. Shit.”

“What?”

“That sounds like plantar fasciitis.”

“What?”

Here we fucking go again.

“Don’t you remember? Plantar fasciitis?! I had it 3 years ago!”

“Hmm.”

And out he hobbled. And I placed the humble pie on the shelf. Just in case.

After extensive internet research, several borrowed library books, and urgent phone conversations with family members who are also health care professionals, B&B announced to me, “I have plantar fasciitis.”

I have no poker face. So I met his declaration with a mix of facial acrobatics, none of which are available to the Botox Community, who by the way are the same bitches who can pull off those shorts with a 3” inseam post-kids. Sure, I’ve got deep creases, but I corner the market on facial expressions while I simultaneously rock my capris. So there.

It’s really hard not to say, “I mother fucking done told you this would happen,” when I’m trying to show my spouse empathy. Empathy is the one where you can understand what the other person is going through because you’ve been through it yourself, right?  Also I am burdened with this thing called foresight. And in the instant that he announced his injury, I immediately had visions of days, weeks, months of surliness and an existence devoid of post-exercise endorphins punctuated by a mantra of, “there is no god.”

Thank you baby Jesus I was wrong. Not about the plantar fasciitis, about the weeks and months of surliness. B&B is a man with a plan, and his plan was a cortisone injection.

To prepare himself for the procedure, he watched YouTube videos of people receiving the cortisone injection. Have you ever heard an animal wailing and writhing in agony? No? Watch YouTube videos of people receiving cortisone injections directly into their heels. I beg you. Because that’s what I liken the human screaming to. B&B watched them throughout the week at maximum volume so I could appreciate what he’d have to endure.

It was almost as loud as the screaming in my head because this entire injury could have been avoided.

But nobody in this house listens to me.

So I run.

It doesn’t always do the trick.

Which is why I write.

And occasionally, somebody says, “Hey, you have some funny stories. Can you write one for me…and please spell out your numbers…so I can publish it in my book of funny stories?”

And that just happened! Which is not only tremendously pleasing to me, it also silences B&B’s “there is no god” argument for like 2, pardon me, two whole hours.

Cover 2500x1563

I Just Want to Be Alone. It’s true. It’s also the name of the new humor anthology containing one of my stories. It’s a funny one involving B&B. Not the one where he dresses like a witch and I pound cupcakes and fantasize about becoming obese just to get some one-on-one time with Bob Harper. A different story, but equally funny.  It’s available for pre-order now! So, now’s your chance…

Pre-order I Just Want to Be Alone. Be a pal.

Please listen to me. The book is a scream, and you need to own it.

I would hate for you not to listen.

You might just catch plantar fasciitis if you don’t.

Worth the risk? You be the judge.

Because Icicles Happen

Four kids is plenty. Four kids is plenty. Four kids is plenty.

I keep saying this to myself.

Because I suddenly miss having a baby in the house.

Poopy diapers. Nighttime feedings. Diaper bags. Outlet covers. Gates. Highchairs. Choking hazards. Sippy cups.

Do I miss these things?  No, I do not. Not one bit.

A tiny hand resting against my collarbone as its owner slumbers on my shoulder. Walking past the nursery that always smells like baby. Feet as wide and thick as they are long. Contented babbling from the crib in the morning. The spontaneous shriek that accompanies the first solo steps across the room.

Do I miss these things? Yes, I do. With all my heart.

Enough to augment this circus of a family? No way. Especially since one of us has been neutered.

The real issue is I don’t know how NOT to have a baby in the house.

Which can only mean one thing…

It’s time to paint the family room.

A new color.

Not a new baby, but that’s alright.

Four kids is plenty.

I scour the online yard sales on Facebook, “ISO a sofa in EUC.”

EUC. Excellent Used Condition. Just like my uterus after four kids.

OK, excellent is a stretch.

I find the perfect sofa. It’s white. It’s so white, in fact, that it glows.

B&B says One White Sofa + Four Boys = Bethany is Loco.

I must be a little loco. Because I miss having a baby in the house.

Unrelated or maybe very much related, we are now the proud owners of a white sofa in excellent used condition.

We begin painting, and I’m in love with the new color. It’s not a new baby, but it’ll do.

Four kids is plenty.

The winter storms hit one after another.  There’s shoveling to be done. Board games to be played. Soup to be made. Arguments to settle. Snowmen to build. Tree limbs to collect. B&B started to paint the other day, but the icicles were so beautiful that he abandoned painting and ran out with his camera to capture their images.

Our new white sofa remains stain free after 12 consecutive days in a house with four boys.

Which is more loco than my wanting the sofa in the first place.

The family room isn’t completely painted yet.

I’m not bothered.

Because icicles happen.

Icicles Happen

Icicles Happen

I still miss having a baby in the house.

But I feel quite confident that…

four kids is plenty.

Magic in the New Year

“Oh, this looks fabulous on you! It looks so good that it should be worn just like this! Don’t put a shirt over top of it!”

The sales girl claps her hands together. She is in her mid 70’s. Her name is Magic. She stands back and admires her customer’s reflection in the mirror.

The customer is my sister. She also looks at the mirror. She smiles…more at Magic’s suggestion than at her own reflection. She wears her favorite gray comfy sweatpants, brown Uggs, and a fire engine red bra…hand-picked by Magic herself.

In her reflection, my sister sees a ridiculous ensemble…sweatpants and red bra. She sees a stomach that looks great for having birthed 3 kids, but could use a little toning. Magic sees something entirely different. She sees beauty in the soft curves that age has not yet marred and claimed.

“That red bra was made for you,” Magic continues. “Don’t ever cover it. It looks beautiful. Everybody needs a gorgeous red bra. Now, you’ll need a pair of red panties to match!”

“Oh, Magic, I don’t need red panties, but thank you!” my sister argues.

Magic won’t have it. She is already out of the dressing room, calling, “Please, you’ll break my heart! They’re on clearance for $2.15 a pair. I’ll find you a pair!”

***

“What are you, some kind of athlete?” he asks his client. He is a trainer at the gym, and it is 10 minutes into a grueling 30 minute workout.

The question catches his client completely off guard. And a little off balance. I am his client. All of my strength and concentration focus on maintaining my form while hoisting a heavy kettlebell over my head.

“So, you’re an athlete?” he repeats.

I stammer an answer, “Um, I guess. I mean, I was. Or I try to be. I do my best. I just have a lot of kids now. So…”

He shrugs, “You look like an athlete. Some people would be insulted by that. I mean it as a compliment.”

I smile, “It’s actually pretty much the nicest thing you could ever say to me. Is class over? Because I would love to leave now on this high note.”

I come home and look at my reflection. And I see Mom. Only Mom. Not athlete, not writer, not wife, not daughter, not sister, not friend.

Just Mom.

December has taken every ounce of me. Every day has been about someone else. Swept up in the chaos of the holidays, I’ve forgotten about me. All the parts of myself that come together so uniquely to make me Bethany have been put on hold.

It’s as though I’ve forgotten to shine.

***

Tomorrow begins a new year. I hope it’s a special one…

A year of brand new red bras with matching panties, worn with absolutely nothing else.

A year of looking at our reflections and seeing what others celebrate about us.

A year in which we remember…every month…to nurture who we are so that we may shine.

A year that brings magic.

Or, as in the case of my sister, Magic.

Mom of Four Boys. More or Less.

“So, what is it like?”

People often ask me this question. Immediately after I disclose that I’m Mother to four children. And that they are all boys.

When they were very small, my answer was, “Busy. Very busy.” And that was true then.

Now that they range in age from five to twelve, my go-to answer is, “Busy. Loud. And smelly.” And this is true now.

If I really stop to put into words what it’s like to have four boys, I’d say it’s different from what I had imagined.

It’s less of some things and more of others…

Please head over to What to Expect to read more! See you there!

Who will fall in first?

Who will fall in first?

 

All Because of Two Cupcakes

The other day, I was standing gloriously alone in my kitchen. No one else was home. Just me and the cat who I still refuse to call Clawdia. I call her “Girly Girl” because it’s the first thing that comes out of my mouth when I see her.

It’s weird. I know. Cats are weird too, so it’s kinda poetic.

So I stood alone in my kitchen, and I had in front of me 4 perfect cupcakes. Purchased for my 4 not so perfect kids. They really looked good. I opened the box. And they really smelled good. And I’ve eaten these cupcakes before, so I knew they would really taste good.

But, like a smart 39 year old mother of four who practices moderation in all aspects of her life, I closed the lid, walked away, and caught up on Orange Is the New Black before I had to pick up the boys from school.

Just kidding.

I ate one of the cupcakes.

Just half of it at first.

And, damn, that shit was good.

So. Very. Good.

Then, I thought, I’ll just put this half back, and I’ll just try this other cupcake because I bought these cupcakes for the boys, but I sorta bought this one for me.

And, mother of pearl, that next cupcake was So. Very. Very. Very. Good.

It was so good that I didn’t even stop halfway through. I actually looked at the cat and said, “Holy shit, this is insanely good. It’s a shame you can’t eat cupcakes, Girly Girl.”

And she looked away because she always looks away.

Or because I had icing on my nose.

So, then I looked at the first half-eaten cupcake, and I thought, I ate slightly more than half of that, and one of those kids is going to have a hissy when there is less than half a cupcake to eat, so I may as well just eat the rest of that one too. Then I’ll tell the boys I bought 2 cupcakes for the 4 of them to split, and won’t we all just sing Kumbaya over that.

And that was a good plan. So that’s what I did. And everyone was happy. Not Kumbaya happy, but happy.

Everyone was happy but me.

Because 2 cupcakes.

If someone else in the house had swallowed 2 cupcakes in quick succession, there would have been 20 minutes of mania, his metabolism would have run at its typical Usain Bolt speed, and then he’d chill out and we’d sing Kumbaya.

But my husband didn’t double-fist the cupcakes.

I did.

I thought and thought and thought about the cupcakes. Not because they were delicious. Because I’m a lot of things, but I’m not the girl who stands at her counter and eats 1 cupcake after another while she sympathizes with a cat she calls Girly Girl.

I thought, This is how it starts.

This is the beginning of a road I don’t want to go down.

A road that starts with two cupcakes…

…and it ends with Bob Harper.

And if there’s one thing on this earth more delicious than cupcakes, it’s Bob Harper.

So I thought about meeting Bob, and what our conversation would sound like.

Bob and I would be alone. With like 6 or 7 cameras, but mostly alone. We’d be outside the gym because Jillian would have just screamed at me to “GET OUT OF MY GYM!” And I’d be crying. Because why does she have to scream like that? Isn’t it humiliating enough that I have to be in spandex on the scale every week? Truly, Jillian, why?!

But Bob wouldn’t scream at me. He would wrap his sexy tattooed arm around me and say, “Girlfriend, tell me what’s going on.”

And I’d say, “Bob, it all started with the cupcakes.”

And he’d say, “Let’s talk about the cupcakes.”

And I’d lay my head on his shoulder, and that would send the camera people into a tizzy, and they would snap and gesticulate and mouth “cut that shit out!” and eventually I’d listen to them because my nose would start running, and if I’m leaving a trail of bodily fluids on Bob Harper, it’s not going to be snot.

I’d clear my throat and do my best not to glance at his creepy mustache. But it’s so thick and bushy I’d almost have to squint very hard so that I wouldn’t see it.

I’d look into his concerned blue eyes, and I’d say…

“Bob, I ate 2 cupcakes because…

I was hungry. And I had PMS. Also, They were from The Brunettes Bookshop Bakery. And, Bob, They. Taste. So. Good.”

And he’d nod and say, “OK. Those are the easy reasons. Why else did you eat the cupcakes?”

And I’d say, “I felt sorry for myself that week, Bob. I had hurt my back, and yoga didn’t help. And it hurt too much to run.”

And Bob would ask, “How did you hurt your back?”

And I’d say, “I tried to bring sexy back at my kids’ Homecoming by pairing heeled boots with my skinny jeans. Pony rides, hay rides, lemon sticks, and heeled boots…makes sense, doesn’t it?

And he’d say, “It makes perfect sense. Although I’d have gone with a flannel shirt and leather skinnies.”

And I’d say, “But I can’t rock the leather skinnies like you can, Bob.”

And he’d say, “Please tell me they were ankle booties.”

And I’d be ashamed and say, “Sadly, the boots that hurt my back were soooooo 2 seasons ago.”

And he’d make a face like he’d just caught a whiff of something nasty, and say, “Ewwww. Let’s change the subject, why else did you eat the cupcakes?”

And I’d say, “Because, when I was standing at the stove with one hand massaging my aching back and the other sauteing onions for dinner, I asked my husband to set the table for dinner. And do you know where he went, Bob? He climbed up on the roof of the house!”

And he’d look confused and ask, “Was he cleaning the gutters?”

And I’d raise my eyebrows and say, “One would think that, Bob. But, no. He was dressed as a witch.”

And he’d look puzzled and ask, “Why?”

And I’d say, “Because it was close to Halloween.”

And he’d ask, “And?”

And I’d say, “And he had the camera set up, and he yelled down from the roof to our oldest son, ‘don’t touch anything! Just press the button to take a picture!’”

And again Bob would ask, “Why?”

And I’d say, “Because that’s what he does, Bob!”

And Bob’s eyes would glaze over, and he’d murmur, “Oh, I love a man who likes to dress up.”

And I’d say, “Focus, Bob. Focus. I just wanted him to set the table for dinner.”

And he’d ask, “When you met him, was he the type to set the table for dinner?”

And I’d say, “No, Bob, he was the type to do naked stair dives down the fraternity house steps. You’re glazing over again, Bob. Focus.”

And he’d say, “Girlfriend, people don’t change. The guy who does naked stair dives…and that sounds super hot…doesn’t become the guy who sets the table for dinner just because you married him.”

And I’d say, “You’re right. He becomes the man who dresses up as a witch and stands on roof of your house at the exact moment the light is right because he woke up thinking this would be a cool picture.”

And he’d ask, “Well? Was it a good picture?”

And I’d say, “It was a great picture.”

Oh, yes he did.

Oh, yes he did.

He’d add, “And I bet it was a funny story too. And isn’t that what you do? Tell funny stories?”

And I’d say, “I tell stories, Bob. Yes. They happen to be funny because I married a man who dresses up like a witch and stands on the roof because he thinks it might make a good picture.”

And he’d say, “He’s giving you good material, girlfriend.”

And I’d say, “That’s one way to look at it, Bob.”

Bob would grow serious again, and ask, “Why else did you eat the cupcakes?”

And I’d take a deep breath and answer, “I ate the cupcakes because I am 3…OK 4…months late writing thank you cards to two different families who were brave and generous enough to open their homes to my  family this summer. And I’m beside myself that I haven’t gotten my act together before this, because I don’t want either of them to think that we didn’t appreciate every single second of their hospitality. And, in this crazy age when my home phone only rings when a solicitor calls or when one of my kids is sitting in the principal’s office, a handwritten thank you note takes so little effort but carries so much impact.

And speaking of thank you notes, I still owe thank you notes to friends who cooked for me when I was navigating Target on a motorized cart last May after I rolled my ankle on the jump rope my husband ordered for us but was actually designed for The Incredible Hulk.

And he’d say “What?”

And I’d say, “Don’t ask, Bob. Just watch the video. I ate the cupcakes because I still owe thank you notes to friends who cooked for me when the boys and I had the plague right before Christmas last year when my husband thought we were faking.

I ate the cupcakes because every time I get out of my car at school, I see someone and immediately realize I never replied to her email/text/phone call. I had every intention, but it just…poof…never happened.

When I stop to think about all the friends I haven’t replied to, I feel sad because I miss Ave. When the Verb was still a baby and I was nursing around the clock, I was forced to sit down. And I would use that time to catch up with her via text. And she made every day happier for me. And I miss that friendship.

I ate the cupcakes because the six of us have missed more parties than I can count because the evite still remains unanswered…sometimes unopened…in my email.

I ate the cupcakes because every time I think I’ll have time to write, somebody gets sick, has a field trip, has a day off, or asks that I attend a meeting. Or all of the above.

Because every time someone gets sick, has a field trip, has a day off, or asks that I attend a meeting, I can’t get dinner together.

And then we eat too much pizza.

And occasionally, and don’t fucking judge me, Bob, I take the kids to McDonald’s.”

And he’d shoot me a venomous look.

And I’d say, “Don’t look at me like that, Bob. I need your support right now.  And when I occasionally…and it’s rare, Bob, OK, it’s rare…take them to McDonald’s,  the Verb blows my cover by marching into kindergarten and dictating a story about being a scarecrow who gets chicken nuggets from McDonald’s.

And then that story makes it onto the wall of the building where all the parents walk their kids into school, so they can all read about how I poison my kids and their scarecrows with McDonald’s.”

Thanks for this, Verb. Truly.

Thanks for this, Verb. Truly.

And Bob would shrug and says, ““Well, that serves you right.”

And then I would shoot him a nasty look. But he’s so cute that I couldn’t be angry at him for long.

I’d take a deep breath and say, “I ate the cupcakes because every time I go to a meeting at school, they talk less about the test scores and more about raising our children to be resilient, and it all makes sense to me.

But I have to remember to let the kids solve their own problems more than I already do.

Because every time all four of the kids are on the trampoline together, my sweet Interrogator bursts into the house choking back tears.

And more often than not, I run outside to his aid.

Because he is my heart, Bob.

But I’m not teaching him resilience when I wag my finger and tell his brothers they will rue the day they made him cry.”

By now, Bob will have forgiven my McDonald’s indiscretion, so he’d put his arm around me and say, “You’re teaching them love and kindness. There’s nothing wrong with that. They’re still so young. The resilience will come.”

I’d take another breath and say, “I ate the cupcakes because whenever I login to Facebook and see that all of my writing friends are writing, it makes me feel panicked, and all I can think is, what about lean in??  Lean the fuck in, sisters, how about some fucking solidarity? Can’t we all be prolific at the same time?”

And Bob would say, “You’ve lost me. What do you mean?”

And I’d say, “I mean, I’m sitting in the fucking parking lot at Costco for the 3rd time in 2 weeks, Bob, and I want to write! But I can’t, Bob! I CAN’T WRITE! Because they keep eating, Bob. All the people in my house keep eating. And not the cupcakes. I’ve got the cupcakes covered. They eat all the other things. All the time they eat, eat, eat. So all the times I want to write, I’m spending food shopping.”

And he’d say, “Bethany, take care of your family first, and write when you feel inspired. And be happy for your friends when they carve time out to write. Writers need to write. It’s what they do.”

And I’d say, “That makes sense, Bob.”

And I’d say, “I ate the cupcakes because things are constantly falling through the cracks. Small things. But things. Every day I’m saying, ‘Shoot, I forgot,’. And I feel like I cannot get ahead of it. I cannot get organized. And I’m trying to be organized. But I’m double-fisting cupcakes, Bob. And I just know that all of the organized people in my life are going to be sending out their Christmas cards today and I’ll feel like they’re being organized AT me, Bob. Like I’m struggling to learn the steps to the Bunny Hop, and I’ll open up the mailbox, and BAM! They’re going all Michael Jackson’s Thriller on my ass!

And I know it’s not personal, Bob. It’s organized people being organized. Getting shit done and crossing it off the list. But I’m in a 2 cupcake kinda place right now, so it makes me feel like I’m failing. It makes me feel like I’m behind. Like I cannot get my shit together. And I hate that feeling, Bob.”

And he’d say, “That sounds like a lot of reasons to eat two cupcakes.”

And I’d say, “Hang on, Bob, I’m not finished yet. No one has ever accused me of being succinct.

I ate the cupcakes because here comes Christmas, and how the donkey hell are we going to pay for that?”

And he’d say, “Well, you’re the one who had 4 kids.”

And I’d say, “I know that, Bob. I married the guy who did naked stair dives down the fraternity house steps. We didn’t exactly think it through.

I ate the cupcakes because this is the year we sit down with the Kenyan and explain that the gifts that accompany Christmas are not exactly the handiwork of elves who work for a jolly man in a red suit…and with that simple explanation, we will extinguish some of the greatest mystery and magic of his childhood, and he will grow up just the tiniest bit in that moment. And it will happen right before our eyes. And he is perfect in all of his belief and innocence just the way he is, and I dread that I’ll be responsible for delivering the news that will lessen the wonder in his blue eyes.”

And then I’ll really be crying. The ugly cry. Because believe me when I say the Kenyan is one of the brightest lights in my life.

I’ll wipe my swollen, tear-streaked face on my Biggest Loser tee shirt, and say, “I ate the cupcakes because it’s another year of hanging stockings that don’t have airline tickets to Arizona in them. Because, as much as we’d love to see Little Sister over spring break, it costs 2 mortgage payments to fly the 6 of us back and forth across the country that particular week. And we aren’t in a position to do that.

I ate the cupcakes because 12 year olds suck. We just got out of diapers in my house! Everyone can swim! They all sleep through the night, and just when I think it’s going to be all the awesome stuff parenting is supposed to be, I have a 12 year old in the house. And most of the time it just sucks!

It’s brooding and a fuzzy upper lip and irritation at my existence that radiates from every pore of his hormonal body.

It’s stealing glances at him and my breath catching because I see glimpses of the man he’s growing into.

It’s listening to him and losing my shit because WHAT IS WITH THIS ATTITUDE?

It’s wanting to fast forward through this stage with him while simultaneously wanting to slam on the brakes because the next time he is nice to me, I’ll know he is being nice to cover up the fact that…like a typical fucking jackass teenager…he just snap chatted a picture of his naked torso to a girl I haven’t met.”

And Bob will ask, “What’s snap chat?”

And I’ll say, “Here, let’s have a tutorial. You take a naked picture of yourself, then you snap chat it to me, and it disappears in 10 seconds. And I would NEVER take a screen shot to look at every single day for the rest of my life, so don’t even sweat that. Never. I promise. Never.”

And he’ll say, “I practice yoga naked, so I’ll do it then.”

And I’ll say, “That’s perfect, Bob. Just perfect.”

And he’ll say, “Focus, Bethany.”

And I’ll say, “I ate the cupcakes because every time I walk into the dentist with my youngest son, they ask, ‘how did your son lose his tooth at such a young age?’ And I shrug, smile, and answer, ‘I don’t know. He’s the youngest of 4 boys.’ And that’s the truth, but they always continue to look at me like that’s not an answer. And I’m like, ‘We have a trampoline. And 4 boys. They are all boys. And they bounce. And they wrestle. Boys!’

And I feel judged. And I know they’re in the business of teeth, and my son is missing a tooth. But I’m his Mom. And I am in the business of putting my body, my dreams, my heart, my spirit, my entire existence into providing love, consistency, and a safe place for him and his brothers. And I don’t fucking know what happened to his tooth! I have 4 boys! And a trampoline! And 4 fucking boys! It’s yet another thing that slipped through the cracks, Bob. And, really, I just want the crowd at the dentist to say, ‘Damn, he looks cute without that front tooth.’ Is that too much to ask, Bob?”

And Bob would say, “I saw his picture, and I think he looks adorable without that front tooth.”

And I’d say, “Thank you, Bob. I knew I could count on you. I ate the cupcakes because my family just got kicked in the gut with a life-changing diagnosis, and not the kind that changes anyone’s life for the better. The kind where everyone cries. And expectations are shifted. And dreams are shattered.

I ate the cupcakes because I wrote some stuff. And so far nobody wants it. And I feel vulnerable. And what if maybe nobody ever wants it? That makes me feel gross and icky and uncomfortable. And like Michael Schaefer still doesn’t know I exist even though I loved him from afar for every. single. day. of grade school.”

And Bob would look at me, and say, “Just because Michael Schaefer didn’t acknowledge you doesn’t mean you’re not worth acknowledging. And just because nobody wants what you wrote yet doesn’t mean no one will ever want it. There’s a teaching opportunity here.”

And I’d say, “I know, Bob. Resilience. Re-mutha-fucking-silience. But it doesn’t sting any less.”

And I’d put my head on his shoulder again because he is basically not even gay at this point, and it feels like we are practically a couple.

And he’d whisper into my hair, “So, what are you going to do?”

And that’s when I’d seal the deal with my yoga talk. Because I know Bob loves yoga as much as he loves tattoos. And I love yoga almost as much as I love Bob.

I’d say, “You know, Bob, I was practicing yoga the other day, and my instructor said something that stuck with me. She said, ‘criticism is just noise.’”

And Bob would lift his leg and lay it over mine, and he’d say, “I love that.”

And I’d say, “I love it too. I’m criticizing myself, Bob. It’s too much noise. Too frequently.

I feel overwhelmed, Bob. And I’m allowing it to get in the way of all that’s good in my life.

I have a house that’s full. Full of life. And all the good and the bad that comes with it.

I have too much good in my life and I am too many things to too many people to allow all this noise.

So no more cupcakes for me, Bob.

I want to sing Kumbaya.”

And Bob would say, “Bethany, I’ve never said this to a woman, but I’d put my crotch-less leather chaps on for you any day of the week. And twice on Sundays, cowgirl.”

And I’d say, “Oh, Bob, I’d love to yoga you so hard that creepy mustache of yours falls right the fuck off.

But I’m in love with the witch standing on my roof.

Don’t look so sad.

If you’re ever in Philadelphia, let’s take a yoga class together.

And we can do all the partner handstands your heart desires.”

So I feel much better after my talk with Bob.

Even if it was just in my head.

All that. Because of two cupcakes.

 

They Call me The Gatekeeper

Parenting is a tricky bastard. It moves. It shifts. It misleads. As soon as you feel you’ve got a firm grasp on it, it turns to dust in your hands, blowing right through your over-confident fingers.

It leaves you frazzled. Wishing for a do-over. It makes a fool of you.

I have been a parent for only 12 years. Yet I recognize it for the nimble minx that it is.

When I think about the kind of parent I want to be, I picture a scene from a movie. Like Diane Keaton in The Family Stone. As loving as she is loved. Filled with compassion and joy. She radiates in the company of her husband and children.The dinner table scene? It gets me. Every. Time. It. Gets. Me.

But life isn’t like a movie. The dinner table at my house is more like a scene from Animal House than The Family Stone. There’s nothing romantic about a family dinner. Real life is a bunch of rowdy kids around a table making fart noises in their armpits. They say things like, “your meatloaf is disgusting,” and, “When’s Dad going to be home, he’s more fun than you,” and “I never remember what happened at school, who do you always ask,” and “I hate everyday Math”.

Oh…wait, that last statement was mine.

Have you ever seen Bridesmaids? Remember the part when Rita talks about her 3 boys?

Well, we’re almost there. Actually, we may even be there, but I may be a little bit in denial. The disgusting part has arrived, uninvited, on my doorstep. The scent that filled my home and defined my first decade of parenting is now gone.

Not a trace of baby powder left.

Armpits whizzing past me smell like hoagies.

Sneakers left by the front door stink like roadkill that has been left to bake in the sun for days.

Showers are taking FOR.EV.ER.

When I pick through the piles of dirty laundry to locate and wash the totally overpriced and quite frankly butt-ugly Nike Elite socks that are all the rage among middle school boys, I find washcloths. Oy. Doth my nose detect a waft of shampoo when the boys emerge from the shower? It does not. I don’t want to know what’s happening in there. I don’t need to know what’s happening in there. That’s why God put doors on bathrooms. To keep some mystery in the house. If my boys could be a little less European about how frequently they shampoo, I’d be super jazzed.

I’m saying things I never thought I’d have to say aloud. Things like, “I think it’s a bad idea to be naked in the same room with the cat.”

And, “Please remove your nose from your brother’s butt cheeks. You’ll smell that fart soon enough.”

And, “Dancing on the breakfast table naked sure looks like fun. But swinging your man jewels around like that is considered inappropriate in most circles. Also, I don’t really want your penis near my avocado smoothie.”

Did you grow up watching The Cosby Show? Remember when Heathcliff Huxtable would threaten his kids, “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out”?

And your parents would laugh, and you’d think, “I don’t get it. Mom and Dad are laughing. I’m supposed to be laughing, so I’ll laugh, but I don’t get it.”

We’re officially there. And, son of a bitch four times over, I get it.

Indeed. I get it.

There are no prize-winning scripts in parenting. It’s just you, your children, and the great unexpected.

What will they do?

And what, pray tell, will you say in reply?

Just last week, I sat across the dinner table from Waldorf and said things to him I never imagined I’d say to my child.

“Listen to me, and listen to me good,” I hissed, jabbing my finger in his direction to hammer my point home.

“You are acting like a colossal dick. Your attitude is crap. You had better turn it around, or when your father gets home from work, he will fucking JACK you.”

Say what? Jack you? Like car jack you? And how big is the difference between acting like a regular dick and acting like a colossal dick? Is it measurable?

But I was on a roll. And there’s no stopping Mom when she’s on a roll…

“Look at my face,” I said. “I am The Gatekeeper. Every decision that is made in this house must come through me. If you don’t change your attitude immediately, I will remove everything fun from your life. I can do that. Because I am The Gatekeeper. And I control all the things. The fun things. And the not fun things…all the things. I control them all…”

In all of the Hollywood inspired visions I’ve had of myself as a mother, I never once fantasized about cursing my oldest son out. Or threatening him physically on behalf of my husband. And I especially didn’t picture myself reaching into the depths of 1984 to channel a character played in Ghostbusters.

Does Diane Keaton do that? No she does not.

Apparently, I do.

I’m a little worried about this new phase of parenting we’re entering in my house.

We haven’t even hit driving yet.

Or sexting.

Or driving while sexting.

One thing is for sure. This parenting gig is hard. It’s nothing like the way they portray it in the movies.

I know this. Because…

I’m just a girl.

Standing in front of four boys.

Asking them to pee with some precision.

The Tale of Two Moms

Once upon a time, there were two Moms.

And their jeans were tight.

And that annoyed them.

Mom One said, “My jeans are tight. And I’m annoyed. I’m going to go for a run.”

Mom Two said, “My jeans are tight too. I’m annoyed as well. I’m going to join you for a run.”

They went for that run. And they talked about their kids…because they were Moms. And Moms talk about their kids. And because their kids were the reason why their jeans were tight.  But the time passed quickly. And the run wasn’t so bad.

So, they decided to run together again. And they chatted some more about their kids.

They ran again. And they divulged their dreams for their kids.

They ran again. And they discussed their husbands.

They ran again. And they whispered about the stresses of marriage.

They ran for a long time together, and…as running partners so often do…they became the closest of friends.

Their runs were so much more than exercise.

Their runs were sacred.

Therapy.

Validation.

Encouragement.

Raw honesty.

Laughter.

Acceptance.

A lifeline.

Occasional peeing behind a tree.

One day those two Moms…whose jeans were no longer tight…had the courage to talk about the one thing they’d never talked about before.

Mom One asked Mom Two, “If you could be anything in the world, what would you want to be?”

Mom Two replied, “My dream is to be a nurse.”

Mom Two asked Mom One, “If you could be anything in the world, what would you be?”

Mom One whispered, “My dream is to be a writer.”

The Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Nurse told the Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Writer, “You would be a wonderful writer.”

The Mom who Dreamed of Becoming a Writer told the Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Nurse, “You would make a wonderful nurse.”

They smiled at each other and tucked their dreams back into their boxes. Because…at that time…that’s where those dreams belonged.

And their conversation turned back to the Barefoot Contessa’s orzo with roasted vegetables. Because, damn, Ina nailed it with that recipe.

A few years passed and, though they didn’t run as regularly, they remained close friends.

They continued to laugh.

They shared more fabulous recipes.

They confided in each other.

And they reminded each other about their dreams, still tucked away in boxes.

The Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Writer said: “Remember your dream of becoming a nurse? I think it’s time for you to follow your dream.”

And The Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Nurse said: “Remember your dream of becoming a writer? I think it’s time for you to follow your dream.”

The Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Writer said: “I’m scared.”

The Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Nurse said: “I’m scared too. Let’s be scared together.”

And the Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Writer said: “It’s a deal. And by the way, I have a fantastic chicken recipe for you. Raspberry Balsamic Glaze. Really smashing.”

More than four years has passed since those two Moms first ran together.

This morning, the Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Writer received a text. It said, very simply and quite eloquently:

“I FUCKING DID IT.”

The Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Nurse had just completed her final exam.

The Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Nurse is finally a nurse.

And the Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Writer was so overcome with emotion that she sat at her kitchen counter and wept tears of joy and relief and pride and exhaustion for her friend.

And then…naturally…the Mom Who Dreamed of Becoming a Writer sat down.

And wrote about it.

Because that’s what writers do.

Here’s to tight jeans…

…To running partners…

…To reminding ourselves to dream…

…To having the courage to pursue those dreams…

…And to friendship.

Today is a good day.

Today my friend is a nurse.