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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Making waves…micro ones

I walked their new house, clutching my Dunkin Donuts’ coffee cup and taking it all in. The Great room was great, spacious and bright. There were accents all around the house that suggested that its previous owners were modern back in the seventies, which was the last time anyone had done anything to the place. There was a scary open staircase that freaked me out because I had young kids. Almost everything needed updating, but there were a lot of rooms and a lot of potential.

I hadn’t taken off my jacket yet, and my sister and brother-in-law were walking around with sweaters, hats and scarves. Okay… apparently there was some insulation work that needed to be done as well.

The tour ended in the kitchen.

“Hey, where’s the microwave?” I asked my sister-in-law, “I want to heat up my coffee.”

“We don’t have a microwave.” She said, “You know Corey, he thinks they’re no good. Here, give me.”

She took what was left of my coffee and poured it into a pot on the stove.

I felt like I was on the frontier.

Now I know these people. They didn’t have a microwave in their city apartment. But that kitchen was small and stylized in a way which would severely limit their already limited space. I thought for sure, they’d have one here. Who doesn’t have a microwave these days? I wondered, somewhat disapproving. Oh, yes, I can be holier than thou, just check out my socks.

I knew my brother-in-law could live in a cave as long as there was the NY Times and an AM radio.  That being said, my sister-in-law is a gazelle who fancies expensive boots and fabulous haircuts. I figured they’d cancel each other out and maybe produce a cute, baby microwave. No. Not the case.

“Where’s the Keurig?” I asked, referring to a change of life coffee maker I had gifted them when I realized its magnificence.

“Oh, that.” She gestured with a wave of her hand. “He returned that immediately.” She shook my re-heated coffee in the pot. “Really, this is fine.”

I’m lucky my eyes didn’t get stuck behind my head for all the judging I was doing.

That was years ago, but now I’m officially here to say that I’ve seen the light. Well, it was more of a spark, actually. And, yes, it came from inside of my microwave.

The offending beast

The offending beast

I was heating up some leftover pasta when a flash caught my eye. Was that fire? Electricity? I don’t fully understand what “micro waves” are, so I was naturally a little concerned. The only other time I had witnessed something like it was when I accidentally left a fork on a plate in there. Uh, don’t do that.

Needless to say, I pulled the plug on the microwave. For a moment it was like all the light in my world went out. How would I heat up Michael’s pasta? I stood in my kitchen momentarily confused. It was like the time the ATM didn’t work and I had to withdraw money from an actual live teller. I blanked then too. Technology had been doing it for me for so long, I simply forgot how.

Wait! I had a stove. I had a pot. I could just put the pasta in the pot and heat it! Revelation. And it worked, sort of. Some of the re-heated pasta did come out a little hard, which Michael immediately shunned, but it was mostly okay. I felt powerful. I didn’t need no stinkin’ microwave.

For the first couple of days, I managed fine, until I realized that you need a microwave to make microwave popcorn. That kind of stumped me. We loved microwave popcorn. Another flash, although this one didn’t come with radiation – I would buy kernels and pop it on the stove. I would make Potcorn! I was just bursting with excitement.

After shopping for special popcorn oil, seasoning and spray butter to help the seasoning stick, I was ready. The boys and I watched eagerly, shaking the pot at regular intervals until our eyes and ears witnessed the miracle transformation from kernel to corn. It went on for about a minute or so, but then abruptly stopped. We continued shaking the many kernels left in the pot, but all we wound up with was a burnt pot and burnt potcorn. Bummer.

burnt popcorn

The next snack disaster happened a few days later. Smores. I make smores a lot for play date snacks. It’s always a crowd pleaser. 30 seconds in the microwave and the chips are melty and the marshmallows puffed with gooey softness. Then you just do the graham cracker clap and done. I had six kids chanting for them. Could I make them in a toaster? ‘

burnt smore

Uh, no.

This is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed my month playing pioneer woman, but the real reason I didn’t just run out and buy a new one was because our microwave is built into our wall unit and we’re considering re-doing the kitchen. So I just wound up waiting, which turned into major procrastination, which resulted in burnt snacks and a lot more pots and pans to clean.

So while I will ultimately be getting another microwave, I did gain a new understanding of where my brother and sister-in-law are coming from.  I’ll roll my eyes no more. Except, of course, when I want a hot, fresh cup of coffee.

I couldn't go a day without this baby!

I couldn’t go a day without this baby!

From one mother to another

“So tell me something you remember about me from your childhood.” My mom asked casually. “Anything.”

Oh no. I smelled a trap. This was definite trouble. I struggled to come up with something. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but my memories of childhood are basically a dead zone. I don’t remember spending much time with her at all, and my father was a mix of random play and me stepping over his drunk body. I do remember them fighting. Hmm. I don’t think that’s what she’s looking for.

“I knew it.” She concluded from my hesitation. “I was a terrible mom.”

Crap.

Okay, so I probably could have had a better childhood, but at this point, who remembers? Oh man, the pressure. Think! Think!

“Tell me something you remember.” I countered, stalling for time.

That stopped her. “Oh, okay.” Pause. Then, a giggle. “I can’t remember anything.”

Disbelief. “You can’t remember anything from my childhood?”

More giggling. “Where was I?” she asks. Like I should know?

I don’t know if it’s funny, but we are both amused. “That’s a good question, mom.”

“You were so precocious. You just raised your cute little self.”

“Apparently.”  Well, it was the 70’s.

We giggled some more about it and then moved on to lighter subjects, like how full she was from her over-sized dish of vegetables or how cute my boys are.

It’s good that we can laugh about the past and move on. Our relationship has evolved so much since the times I don’t remember, or my brain chooses to forget. I’ve grown and she’s grown as well. Emotionally, at least. There was a time when she wouldn’t even think to ask such a question. Not because she didn’t care, but whether it was her youth, immaturity or overwhelming circumstance, she just didn’t think of it.

I still remember a couple of years ago when I was telling her about a friend of my son’s whose parents were divorcing, which coincidentally was around the age my parents divorced. She said, “Wow, that must have been really hard for you.” I was shocked. It was the first time she had directly acknowledged my feelings about that time. Okay, so it was almost 30 years later, but still, I was touched by her, albeit belated, concern.

Physically, she’s gorgeous, strong and energetic, but tiny, topping out at about 5’1, and I’m giving her that inch because I love her and I know she’s just arched her back and is standing up a little straighter reading this. I can hear her bemoaning her stature all the way from her house. “Oh, why am so short?”  65 years and she hasn’t come to grips with her height. She is eternally cute.

It has taken years to come to this point, but our relationship steadily improved around the time I got married and markedly improved after my first child was born. I honestly didn’t expect all that much given our history, but she completely surprised me. Devoted, loving, generous. She dotes on each of my boys. They are such a joy to her and she is so attentive and wonderful, that I can’t imagine that she wasn’t always this way.

Later, my phone rang again.

I answer, “Hi mom.”

“Hi, I was just wondering if you thought of anything.”

“Uh no, mom. I haven’t been thinking about it.”

“Of course. Me neither…” She switches to her favorite subjects. “Hey, did I tell you how good the boys were the other night? And Julius did the funniest thing…”

I don’t know what happened back then. I can’t remember what I did five minutes ago. What I do know is that today, right now, she is the absolute best mom possible. I wouldn’t change a bit of her.

She, of course, has a list of things she’d change. But that’s another story.

A grandmother is born

A grand mother is born

It’s Mom’s Night Out…should I stay home?

The other night was Mom’s Night Out. It’s an annual event set up by our elementary school, where the moms are invited to go out for an evening to drink wine, shop with vendors brought in to sell things like apparel, jewelry and bags, and of course, eat. It’s a lovely night where I typically walk away buying stuff I don’t need and eating stuff I don’t want.

But this Mom’s Night Out, they’ve shaken things up a bit by announcing that there would be no shopping. This year, there would be dancing. Dancing? Oh! My young brain cries. The last time you went dancing was at someone’s wedding, who knows when. It’s been at least five years, back when one shoulder dresses were trendy. Inside, I’m excited, but what comes out of my mouth is, “Wow, I hope it won’t be too loud.”

Gahhh!! Who is this old person pretending to be me? Before I can stop myself, I go even further, “I don’t even know if want to go. I’m tired.”

When did I become so boring? And worse, someone who’s boring and barely cares. It’s my apathy at my disinterest that has me all hot and bothered. I guess, I’m happy that at least something still does (Besides my very sexy husband, of course. Wink wink, sexy husband).

I’m not alone. Not to drag anyone under the bus, but instead of rallying my negativity into positivity, my friends all jumped on my wagon, voicing their own lackluster interest. I can’t blame us really. We’re tired. We’re lazy. We do the mom thing, wiping, cleaning, schlepping, negotiating. Some of us have jobs in the adult world as well. So while going out at night is a pleasure, sometimes the overwhelming days make it almost too much of an effort.

Is this middle age? I am in my 40’s now, along with most of my friends. So technically, I guess it is. But isn’t 40 the new 30? I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I’m married and have children. I can’t even begin to process that my child bearing years are actually over. What is happening here?

Maybe it’s because I still think of myself as young, but if I’m honest, when I see someone in their 20’s, I know by the way they dress and act and go out till all hours, that I am not young. That I don’t even want to be. They can have their night clubs and stilettos. I’ve got Mom’s Night Out!  So off I go in my sensible, flat boots.

The turn-out was slim. Apparently, there are more beaten-down moms than me, who couldn’t even gather the energy to go. My friend and I were the first to arrive. Yep, the first. Back in the day, this would be embarrassing. Now we glory in getting out of our houses as quickly as possible. Also, if I don’t get out early, the odds of me going steadily diminish. It’s like every minute I don’t get out of the house is another reason to put on sweat pants and watch the Real Housewives.

The music was loud, but I found myself moving a little to keep warm in the cool, empty room. We sat down, sipping our wine as friends filtered in. We ate and chat, but not a mom stepped up to dance. I’d like to say I was leading the pack to the center of the floor, but I barely moved my butt from the cushy couch. I had a plate of food, friends and a magnum of wine. I was happy – head in the clouds, smile on the face, soft buzz of energy – happy.

At around 10pm, my friend and I exchanged ‘the glance’. It was time to go. I got home at the perfect time. My kids were nestled all tight in their beds; the picture of innocence and all things beautiful. And I was snuggling in mine with my sexy husband by the 11 o’clock news. Call me a loser, but I couldn’t ask for a better night.

Hot mamas in sensible shoes

Hot mamas in sensible shoes

Girl of the House

I’m tucking my three boys into bed. They are all naked, except for their underwear. It’s how they sleep. It’s how their father sleeps. The cool temperature of the house doesn’t seem to affect them at all. Not that it’s freezing or anything, but we sleep with the thermostat set at 67 or 68 degrees. I am in sweats, a sweatshirt and fuzzy socks. They are baby bear cubs (minus the fur) rolling all over their beds as I try to shove them into the warm cave of blankets.  We do not seem of the same species.

I often feel that way, being the only girl in my house. I’m constantly the odd, uh, man out. I want the house warmer, they want it colder. I want to bake cupcakes; they just want to eat them. I want to read them stories, they want to build a house out of the books. Sigh.

The differences don’t end there. In fact, they’re just beginning, leading me to believe that in fact, we may very well live together but exist in different worlds. Case in point…

I’m the only one at the dinner table eating greens. They just look green if I make them eat any.

I am the only one who sees things. I actually did an experiment here. Not one of my boys or husband noticed the Monopoly game dead center on the floor of our hall for days. They walked past it, stepped on it and even tripped over it, actually kicking it across the floor, but no one ever thought to move it.

I am also the only one who can find things. It’s a string of, “Honey, where are the keys? Mom, where is my basketball shirt? Where is my lego guy? I can’t find the mayonnaise. Did you see my hat?” I mean come on people, “Table, drawer, under bed, fridge, on floor by shoes.”  Duh.

I am the only one who can just roll up my sleeve and take a shot or give blood. They wrestle and beat each other to the ground, no problem. They can come home with scratches on their face, but no memory of how it actually got there. A tiny prick in the arm? Babbling, snot bubbling tears. Really?

I am the only one who can tell time. No husband, 9:30pm at night is not when we start a game. No son, 10pm is not when we remember we forgot homework. Nor is when we decide to be hungry. And kids, whether you are finished with what you’re doing or not in the morning, the bus for school does not care. 8:25am. Get your butts out there. No, you cannot have just one more minute. Just look at the clock.

There are also simple differences. They all favor vanilla. I am chocolate through and through. They love the ocean. I am land locked. They are all good at Math. I don’t even trust myself with a calculator. They beat each other up. I just beat myself up.

Is it gender inherited? Is it learned behavior? I tend to believe that they are who they are, just as I am who I am. Trust me, I tried to turn them to the dark side, of chocolate of course, but they couldn’t be swayed. I try to open their eyes, but they just can’t seem to see the same things I see, and not in the same way I see them.

It may just be that boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. Totally different, yet, most of the time, living together in harmony. So, while I may be destined to be the only person in my house who can find anything, at least I know that no one is going to be stealing my ice cream.

vanilla boys

My children are never going sledding again

We had the winter’s first snow this past weekend, and there was new puppy excitement all over my house. There would be snowmen and sledding and hot cocoa with marshmallows.

As they do every year, the town flocked to the local golf course to enjoy the winter playground. Of course, we weren’t supposed be there. But this kind of snow can’t be squandered. It must be raced on and sledded down. It must be as covered with red cheeks and happy smiles as the hills are with dazzling bright snow.

The day before, in anticipation of the coming blizzard, my husband went in search of new sleds. No cheap plastic ones would do. No sir. We went to no less than four different stores before finding the acceptable vehicles for complete sliding satisfaction.

I bundled the kids’ energy into snug little suits and sent them off with their dad. I don’t enjoy sledding at the golf course. For one, it’s cold. Second, it’s too crowded and dangerous. I’m wincing with every run. Teenagers take too many risks. Kids are racing back up the hills, where sledders are racing down. Many are without helmets. Children are unsupervised. It’s fast and wild.

The near misses make you cover your eyes and exhale with a cold puff of visible relief. And then we all laugh, because we got a thrill, the day is brilliant, and it’s all good. Except this time. What should have been a near miss was a direct hit. One second, a beautiful little girl was laughing, speeding down the hill with her friend. The next second, horrified silence. The unimaginable. The moment where life changes forever.

So many adults and kids witnessed, even commented, on the danger of those slopes. But we do as we always do with risks that we take every day – I’ll just type one text while driving, I’ll just leave my kid playing on the lawn for one minute to answer the phone, I’ll just let a few boys jump in the trampoline together – we close our eyes and assume that nothing horrible will happen. How could it, on such a brisk, stunning day? How could it, to such a perfect little girl?

It could have been any number of people hurt that day. In fact, there were quite a few injuries. It could have been my kids.  It could have been anyone’s. But it was a sweet third grader who I am now praying for with every ounce of hope that fills my soul.

My kids are never going sledding again.

Or snowboarding

Or snorkeling

Or biking in the street

Or on a trampoline

Or, uh, crossing to the bus

Or going on the bus

Or climbing trees

Or swinging high on swings

Or jumping on beds

Or playing sports…

Crap.

I know. I know. It’s a slippery slope.

But that’s a risk I’m willing to take. At least when it comes to sledding at the golf course.

They're already back in storage. Btw, the two in the back were the new ones. $45 - a piece!!

They’re already back in storage. 

First Snow Meltdown

All night the snow fell in big fat flakes, layering our streets with glittering magic. It was the first snow of the season. A blizzard they said, causing us all to scurry to the gas stations and supermarkets for water, milk and wine, you know, the necessities. After Hurricane Sandy, we don’t take chances.

When all was said and done, we got about 15 inches. I’d love to say my children were jumping up and down with glee, too excited with the fresh powder to contain themselves, but really, it looked like any other Saturday morning in my house, with them in their undies and their eyes glued to multiple screens.

They gave the snow barely a passing glance till their allotted game time and mommy service of pancakes, cereal and Nutella toast had run out. Then finally, as they came to life, the snow did for them as well.

They waited impatiently until Howard finished clearing our walkways with a borrowed snow blower. It was the first time I’d seen my husband pushing the contraption. Something about it evoked suburbia more than any other thing I’ve seen him do in the eight years living here.  I almost expected a neighbor to walk out and hand him a cup of cocoa. Wait, was I supposed to do that?

snow blowerFinally, Howard finished and it was time for sledding. That’s when the real excitement began.

Thermals, socks and hats flew all over my hall, and the children fidgeted with now unrestrained eagerness.

“Tyler!”My husband barked, “Stop swatting your brother with your socks! Put them on!”

“I can’t find my boots!” Michael wailed.

“This suit is hurting my marshmallows.” Julius complained, tugging at the crotch of his snow jumper.

“Oh, your marshmallows?” The older boys taunted and danced around him, swatting him with socks.

My husband looked at me, exhausted and extremely aggravated. “Can you do something?”

Do something? I was in the middle of the mess as well,  getting them clothes, shoving their bubbling boy excitement into snug little suits. Trying to contain them was like trying to stop corn kernels on high heat from popping. But I still had the picture of him out blowing snow while I played on the computer, so I tried harder to get them organized.

Now if I could only find Michael’s boots. I looked around the mess of crap, searching.

My husband looked more aggravated.

Tyler and Julius were stomping around the house, fogging up the screen door like dogs, impatient to be let out. I was at a loss. I checked all the places I thought they should be. We hadn’t worn our boots yet this year, so I had searched for them just the other day to make sure we were prepared.  I even went to the store yesterday to pick up a new pair for Tyler who had outgrown his. I really thought I had a pair for Michael.

Michael began to whine. “Forget it! I don’t want to go!”

Sensing trouble, I raced upstairs to look again and found a pair that might still fit Julius. If Julius’s pair, which was Michael’s last year, would still fit him, maybe we were in business.

Julius’s boot was tight on Michael. He complained even before we tried pushing his foot down. Julius was more game. Like Cinderella’s step sisters, he tried with all his heart to shove his foot into a shoe that was clearly too small.

Michael lost it.

My husband lost it.

Desperate, I pulled out a pair of Timberland boots. They weren’t snow boots, but I walked around Albany in winter with ones just like them. Besides, how long were they really going to be out there? “How about these?” I called hopefully. “Can Michael wear these?”

Didn’t matter. Michael wouldn’t even put them on.

Frustrated, Howard decided on a solution. “Come on, we’ll go into town and just get a pair of boots. Let’s go!”

“No! I don’t want to buy boots!” Michael screamed.

Howard blows up. “Fine! Don’t go! Stay home!” He stomped out. Julius and Tyler followed.

Michael melts down. Crying, he throws all the ill-fitted shoes at him as he goes for the door.

I run upstairs in a last ditch attempt to find the boots I know were there.

And then, a snow miracle.

“I found them!” I scream and run downstairs, almost tripping but catch myself. “I found the boots!”

Quickly, I help Michael get the boots on. Howard, of course, really hadn’t gone. He wouldn’t leave Michael.

“Where?”Howard asked.

“In Tyler’s closet. I have no idea how.”

Michael is finally ready. The other boys are already in the car. Calm has been restored.

My husband looks at me. “Ready?”

Me? “Uh, I’m not going?” Not me. I’m no good in snow. I get so cold. I just wind up sitting in the car with the heat on. I’ve learned. It’s no fun for me. Nope, not going. I grit my teeth, waiting for the backlash, but he just looked annoyed and left.

For about a minute, I feel guilty, but only for a minute. I pick up the accumulation of clothes covering my floor. It’s so peaceful now, inside and out. I get myself that warm cup of cocoa and happily sit down to write about what the snow blew in.

we're's the snow blower? wait, i guess that's me.

we’re’s the snow blower? wait, i guess that’s me.

If I had a therapist…apparently I’d babble and suck up

Recently, my friend started seeing a therapist. Gushing, she told me how wonderful it was to speak her mind, even vent a little. I was jealous. I love to speak my mind. I love to vent. It got me thinking, if I had a therapist, what would I say? How it would go? I decided to find out with my new, very well-respected, pretend therapist. So fluff up the couch pillows, I’m coming in…

Hey Doc, let me just say, right off the bat, that I know you’re not real, so please don’t put in my file that I talk to imaginary people. I just wanted to see what it felt like to open my heart to someone whose job it is to listen. Or hopefully, listen. My father, well versed in therapists, reminds me often of the one who fell asleep during his session. I always want to say to him, first, that I can totally understand this, as it takes my father a good 2 years to get to a point, and then you’re not even sure what the point was. Second, that he has, on more than a few occasions, fallen asleep mid-sentence while speaking with me. I guess because of the drugs, uh, medications, it’s not a fair comparison. Besides, that therapist was being paid money. I just pay with my life blood.

Yeah, yeah, so I’m being dramatic. Shoot me. Wait, no! I take that back. Don’t write that down. I am not suicidal. It’s just a figure of speech. I forget I have to be careful with my words around people like you.

Can I not say people like you? Is that an obnoxious stereotype? Are you offended? Do you not like me anymore? I so like being liked. Definitely to a fault. So, am I doing okay, here? I know, I know, there are no right things to say, but come on, tell me, am I doing well? Are you thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe this girl has never had therapy? She can totally communicate.” Or are you thinking, “Wow. I can’t believe this girl has never had therapy.”

I feel like I’m talking too much. Oh, right. Duh. That’s the point. I’m supposed to talk and you’re supposed to listen, but for me, that is a weird concept. I’m kind of used to being ignored. My kids practice selective hearing, which generally includes hearing only the TV and whispering about each other from another room. My husband practices distraction hearing, which allows me to filter in, in between work emails and all things sports related.

Most frustrating is my father. He has no distractions and just talks and talks and talks. I am mute, shoved against my will on his crazy, emotional ride of chronic pain and depression. It is the scariest roller coaster in existence. In fact, it’s not even a roller coaster, it’s more like a free fall. One minute we’re going up up up with all of his plansandneedsandhopesanddreams. And then when he realizes the futility, usually only minutes and 10,000 words later, it’s down down down to the depths of misery and pain.

I’ve been on this ride thousands of times over the years. I barely blink, but for him, each time is like the first. How?? How does he not get his reality? How? It’s…baffling, frustrating, heart-breaking, exhausting, irritating, overwhelming. It’s Just Too Much. Day in, day out. I…I… Well look at me. Now I’m a bit of mess. Damn. Sorry. It’s just so… endless. I need a tissue.

I guess this happens a lot, huh? Oh, I’m over my word count? Already? Well, good, I’m pooped. Did I do okay? I know, I know. Ha. I can’t help it. Next week? I’ll be there, if you will. Don’t stand me up. Ha ha. You’re definitely the best imaginary therapist around. And I’m not just saying that.

She works for Peanuts, just like my therapist.

She works for Peanuts, just like my therapist.