Tuesday, August 30, 2011

And then I became an Old Fart

I am 41, admittedly, but I swear to you I feel like I’m, oh, say, 28. Maybe even younger, somewhere between 24 and 28. I remember those ages really well. I remember what I did to work out (step aerobics), I remember where I went to happy hour (Phipps Tavern in Atlanta) and I remember how much alcohol I could drink (not telling because I don’t want you to stage an intervention). I remember what I watched on TV (Friends and Ally McBeal), I remember what I drove (fire-engine red Toyota) and I remember what I weighed (less than I do now but not mortifyingly less). I remember going on dates and sleeping until 10 am and needing my friends like a fish needs water.

Now I’m married. I have two kids, a mortgage, wrinkles. (I kind of still need my friends like a fish needs water.) I know I’m older and wiser but sometimes I feel like I could amaze you with my talent at serving and consuming upside-down margaritas, or like I could get a babysitting job paying $10 an hour on a Friday night and use that money to hit a bar with my friends on Saturday night. Part of me still thinks carbs are the only food group and vegetables are overrated and going to sleep before 3 am is for losers. (The other, more responsible part of me rules my life and raises my children, but I still FEEL the irresponsible parts. And sometimes miss them.)

So when a good friend said, “Hey, I got tickets to this really fun band. Wanna come?” I quickly said yes. I’m still fun, right? I can still hit a bar, listen to a band, be cool, right?

All she told me was that it was an "80s band." I didn’t think too much about what to expect; maybe that it was the equivalent of going to a Neil Diamond concert – kind of dated but nostalgically sweet. No, I didn’t think the Go-Go’s would be on stage, but I thought it was serious music.

Well, I’m a moron.

First, the name of the band should have tipped me off. The Legwarmers.

The company should have tipped me off. DROP DEAD gorgeous people who work with my friend, many of whom were likely sucking on bottles of formula when I was sucking down underage wine coolers in the 80s. I seriously couldn’t decide if the girls or the guys were prettier. They were all at least ten years younger than those of us with children, which seemed to be the dividing line. Or maybe it was a 40th birthday.

(I think they just came to make fun of us.)

(No, I know they came just to make fun of us.)

Because this was not serious music. It was fun music, and dance music, and everyone-knows-every-word-to-every-song music, but it was a mockery of my coming-of-age decade. Everyone (almost except me) was dressed in vintage 80’s fashion...ripped acid-washed jeans, skinny ties, some ill-advised prom dresses, big hair, Madonna gloves and plenty of blue eye shadow on everyone.

(I think everyone thought I was in costume, in my fun/flirty Nordstom outfit. But no, they were my real clothes.)

At one point, I looked around.

The young, pretty people in cute little 80s clothes they probably borrowed from their middle-aged next-door neighbors got hammered and made out with each other.

One of my over-40 peers was being carted out early by her embarrassed husband, deliberately (and slurringly) spelling her name for me so I could put her in my blog with correct attribution. (She was adorable, and totally fun to be around, and a hilarious drunk, but I’m still not going to name her because no one actually wants that to be their claim to fame.)

Another over-40 friend (the instigator of the night), who had a very good looking guy’s arms wrapped around her waist, was not drunk but was busy wondering a) if he thought her post-two-children stomach was squishy and b) if he really was still in college. (And "hot damn!!" was somewhere in her thoughts, too.)

Me? Well, I was driving, so I wasn’t drinking (I still remain amazed that anyone would trust my driving or my not drinking, but I managed both). And, while I wasn’t exactly standing in the audience with a lighter, I really enjoyed the terrible band. I really liked knowing every song.

That’s bad. Simply pathetic.

And then it hit me.

Goodbye, bubbly high school student of the 80s. Goodbye, blonde party girl of the 90s.

Hello, Old Fart of right now.

Hello, mom who knows all the lyrics to I Melt with You or Love Shack. Hello, woman who was secretly delighted that she was awake at 2:30 am and it wasn’t with a sick kid. Hello, enthusiastic dancer who had sore calves in the morning because she couldn’t NOT jump around to Duran Duran or the aforementioned Go-Go’s.

Well, I guess it was inevitable. And I guess it snuck up on me. But really, did I actually think I’d be slamming Sex on the Beach shots when I’m a grandmother? (Well, maybe. Probably a milder sight, and more likely, than me actually having sex on the beach when I’m a grandmother. No offense, Whit.)

So, for me, The Legwarmers concert was the end of an era.

And it made me think...if, in ten years, Caroline is going out to hear a tribute band and says, "Hey, Mom, where can I get a meat dress?" or Jack asks me for a Justin Beiber wig, I will have entered a whole new level of being an Old Fart. Stay tuned.

(Late-breaking news...there’s another concert in September. Wanna come? I've got just the outfit.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Time in a bottle, or something like that

My sister once said something about this blog that I’ve never forgotten.

It was, “If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t post something stupid and boring.”

(No pressure.)

And I don’t think what I want to say today is interesting, and I think it’s boring to anyone other than me, Whit and maybe my mother-in-law. So it's been hard to write it today. But I hereby give you permission to stop reading, because this post falls more into the category of being a journal entry than anything entertaining for you.

This is what I want to say:

In a world in which life rushes by, and we’re always busy planning for tomorrow, I want to remember today.

I want to remember that on the day Jack started first grade and Caroline started fourth grade, we had just finished a week of earthquakes and hurricanes.

I want to remember Jack adjusting his mako-shark backpack, squaring his shoulders, smiling his little haggle-toothed smile, confirming I wasn’t wearing lipstick before I kissed him, and marching into school.

I want to remember Caroline’s holy fit that she had “one more page!!” left on her summer math packet and I was the horrible mother who wouldn’t let her finish it.

(Because I must push her buttons as much as she pushes mine, I had to repeatedly point out that she had all summer to finish it and 8:30 am on the first day of school wasn’t really the most opportune time to be thinking about completing pages upon pages of fractions and decimals.)

I want to remember trying my damndest to make homemade pop tarts to surprise the kids and the irrational anger I felt when they kept exploding in the oven.

I want to remember Caroline grabbing Jack and saying, seriously, “Do you want me to walk you to your classroom?” And I want to remember Jack, who was trying so hard to be brave, saying, “No thanks” and walking up the stairs by himself.

I want to remember that it’s our 13-year anniversary, and that deserves celebrating, because marriage isn’t always easy and we’ve made it thirteen years (seventeen if you count the dating years) and, as it currently stands, there’s no end in sight. And I’m lucky and I want to remember appreciating that, and appreciating Whit, and appreciating how he makes me laugh almost as often as he drives me nuts.

When these years of my life are a fuzzy memory, I want proof that I was here, mentally and emotionally and physically, and that today was a big deal, and that I made it a big deal. Because sometimes I feel like life is whooshing by me, and that I’ll wake up one day and have adult children and an old, bald man for a spouse and I’ll really feel like it all passed in the blink of an eye.

“And remind me,” I told Whit last night, “that I didn’t miss much of it. That I soaked up every minute. Remind me, when it seems like I blinked and their childhoods were over, that I was present and I was happy and I was there and we loved these days.”

I hope this blog post will remind me that I did stop. That I did relish today, even with its imperfections, rather than missing yesterday or planning for tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The aliens have landed. Obviously.

(Yes, I do like lists. I even think in lists. And parentheses.)

Really smart people put together random events to draw sweeping conclusions, right? Well, then, here you go. (If I’m right, we’ll all agree I’m a genius, but it won’t matter. Which would suck. On so many levels.)

1. The largest earthquake in ages, here. Come on, really?

2. Instantly followed by the largest hurricane in ages, here.

3. My sister has this weird virus with the strangest combination of seemingly unrelated symptoms. I think the aliens have taken over her body, and I am certain she’d agree that’s how she feels. It’s just not normal.

4. Whit was out of town. In the morning, I repeated to him a 2 am phone call we had, word for word. Turns out we never had that conversation, but the words I recalled were from an unread text he sent me at midnight. (Seriously, people, I don’t really believe in aliens, but that is totally bizarre.)

5. And, in the strangest event yet, Bo ducked into some bushes on our walk and came out with an entire, untouched, roasted chicken in his mouth. Which he did not want to relinquish. Which led to the awkward sight of a fully grown woman and an oddly strong dog playing tug of war, in the middle of the street, over poultry.

You know, as I was putting all these events together, I became sort of thankful. Because it is now crystal clear to me that, as I suspected/hoped, I’m not really crazy. It’s just obvious that either the aliens have taken over, or it’s the end of the world. Duh.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In the wake of the quake

Things I learned from yesterday’s earthquake:

1. Most mothers I know drink too much. When one friend asked on Facebook if we had felt the 8 pm aftershock, which was a 4.2 magnitude, so we should have, almost every one of us answered that we had been drinking wine and felt nothing, but that our children, who (one would hope) had not been drinking wine, insisted there had been another quake.

2. Washington can laugh at itself. To this point, my friend Kim (who is currently offering a prize to those who like her blog on FB), offered this (she didn’t write it, just shared it):

"The Weather Channel says yesterday's east coast earthquake caused by a previously unknown fault line running under our nation's capitol is now being called Obama's Fault, although Obama will likely say it's really Bush's Fault. Other theories are that the turbulence was our founding fathers rolling over in their graves or more likely, that what we believed to be an earthquake was actually the catastrophic effect of a single 14.6 trillion dollar check bouncing."

3. Children have insane imaginations. Caroline, who had been at her school helping some of the teachers get ready for next week, said, with a straight face, “Wow, Mommy, I thought a wild boar had gotten underneath the floor.” (Seriously? A wild boar? Since they’re so common around here, as opposed to say, oh, raccoons??)

4. My dog is really, really old. He didn’t even wake up from his nap, though cabinet doors were flying open, walls were undulating and the entire house felt like it was inside a large, violent salt shaker.

5. My dad pays no attention to my children. Jack ran downstairs and yelled, "Grumpy!" (And I do mean yell, because that’s how we have to communicate with him.) "That shaking was an EARTHQUAKE!!" My dad smiled and said calmly, "Oh, wow. Okay." Two hours later (and I swear this on all that is holy), the man texted me and said, "Your brother just called. Did you know that was a damn EARTHQUAKE???"

Now we’re all talking about Hurricane Irene. Really, I think all the kids due to start school on Monday have formed some massive conspiracy with Mother Nature to make summer last just a little bit longer.

Or the entire west coast is fed up with our natural disaster jokes and is offering one large, cosmic thought:


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The pressure's on

In June, I joked about Mommy Camp and about how it was exhausting.

In. June.

Oh, for God’s sake, it was June, you big baby.

In June, I still had a lot to look forward to with my kids. I had the Fourth of July and the bike parade and the fireworks and the Boston trip and the North Carolina trip and the pottery and the rock hopping in the creek and my in-laws saying, "No, drink your wine and read your book and let us play with the children" all ahead of me. And yet I was complaining.


Ignorant fool.

You want to know when running Mommy Camp got stressful? It got stressful in August. When all that fun and traveling was behind us. When all the normal people went away, on vacation. When Whit still worked long hours. When it was just me and the kids.

By August 2, I’d had two mornings during which my computer time was interrupted by two cute little faces looking at me and say, “Mommy? What’s the plan for today?” I had to launch into Mommy Camp agendas.

Now we’ve officially done it all. We’ve done water parks (two different ones). We’ve done putt putt (36 holes at a time). We’ve done slushy stands, ridden bikes, walked around downtown, hit several museums, traveled a ridiculously far distance to sample excellent milkshakes. We’ve done pools and parks and doughnuts and cupcakes. We’ve attended and thrown parties. We’ve lost teeth and been to the state fair. We’ve painted pottery and gone to several different pools and played in the sprinkler and played giant tennis and had sleepovers and pancake and sausage breakfasts and made cakes and cookies. We’ve done bowling and karate and playdates and seen movies and Caroline even got a feather in her hair (which is the most moronic trend she’s ever embraced. Kid looks like a chicken). At one point, I got in a bathtub (dry and clothed) and let the kids scrub my feet and my hands and give me as much of a spa experience as I could get when Suave 3-in-1 Volumizing Hair Treatment for Kids was the luxurious soap.

Again not surprising, I’ve stressed over the plans. "Honey!" I’ll shake Whit as he’s falling asleep. "What can I do with them tomorrow??" He’ll mumble different worthless ideas..."um, shooting range?"...and just fall asleep.

Okay, so the final countdown is here. I can't even let myself get sad that school is starting -- I can't even start to get a little wistful about how much I'll miss them being around all day. Nope, my mission is not yet complete.

Monday is done, even though the big bike ride/lunch outing was aborted when Jack kept crying that somehow his tire and his foot were connecting uncomfortably. But the whole biking/crying/complaining/me sighing process kept us busy for a few hours and counted as an activity, and that was quickly followed by a large playdate involving most of our neighbors.

Oh, the pressure. The insane pressure. We’ve got Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. What have we not done? Go karts. They’re an hour away, so that’s really a whole afternoon. One down. Indoor bounce place.
Two down. Two to go. What to do to, what to do? Can’t think. Did we already go to the nature center and learn to identify mold or did I just make that up?

I’m losing my mind. But just four more days.

Then, thank you God, it’s the weekend. No entertainment is needed on the weekends. Whit is built-in entertainment for the kids, because all he has to do is lie on the ground and the kids attack him and wrestle and the dog barks and everyone gets worn out.

And then Monday, school starts.

Me? I might take a day off. I mean seriously. Go for a long run, say "oops" and let the dog run away so he walks himself, not cook a meal, not answer the phone or an email. Just vacate my life for a day.

Ah, who am I kidding? I’d get bored without a plan. The apples don’t fall that far from the tree, after all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

He said, she said

The following is a true account of part of our weekend.

Caroline: Mom, can I pleeeeease get an iTouch? Do you keep saying no because they’re expensive?

Me: It’s not about the money. It’s about wants versus needs. Really, Caroline, why do you want an iTouch? I know many of your friends have everything they want iTouches, but that’s just not how Daddy and I parent. We don’t just run out and buy you electronic devices because you’re bored on a Saturday. If you constantly compare yourself to other people, you’ll spend your whole life trying to measure up, because someone will always have more than you. It’s a big life lesson, honey, to be satisfied with where you are and what you have. There are children RIGHT NOW who would give anything for those strawberries you didn’t eat at breakfast because you said they were smushy. Do you really understand this, Caroline? Those children aren’t sitting around wondering when the next fancy schmancy toy will drop out of the sky, they’re wondering if they’re going to have enough to EAT.

She just stared at me.

Caroline: Never mind.

She walked into the family room.

Caroline: Daddy? Can I please have an iTouch? Do you and Mommy keep saying no because it’s expensive? Mommy says it’s not about the money.

Whit: It’s totally about the money. Those things cost $400.

Caroline: How about if I earn some of it?

Whit: Great idea. If you can earn $300, I’ll give you the last $100 and you can get an iTouch.

Fist pump.

Caroline: Awesome, Daddy, thank you so much. I love you! That’s great! Thanks for really listening to me. Mommy said no then started talking about smushy strawberries. She just doesn’t understand me like you do. $300! Yeah! I can do this!

She runs off.

Me to Whit: That was evil.

Whit: It was brilliant parenting, babe. She’s pulling weeds for the neighbors...they’re paying five cents a weed. Everyone wins.

Me: Except Caroline, because she couldn’t earn $300 if her life depended on it.

Whit: Eh, it’ll keep her busy until she realizes the futility of it.

Me: You’re diabolical.

Whit: Win/win.

Clearly co-parenting can work (as opposed to the dictatorship I prefer, particularly when I’m the dictator) once you leap past the ethical hurdle of completely screwing with your children.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's a mad, mad world

I don’t believe I have any sort of mental illness. Really, I have actually googled various symptoms to see if I am crazy. I’m not. I think I’m just a little quirky.

I'm strange; maybe a little unique combo of OCD (I alphabetize my spices and truly can’t believe anyone doesn’t) (but I don’t know anyone else who does) and an anxiety disorder.

Let me give you an example. First of all, I’m pretty religious about back-to-school rituals. The kids need haircuts and new shoes, for example. When I was young, school started after Labor Day and the mornings were a little chillier than they are in September these days (unless you believe Rick Perry). I can actually mentally transport myself back to my childhood driveway and remember what it felt like to stand there in my cardigan and my uniform with stiff new saddle shoes on my feet, thrilled about a new school year. (I was a geeky kid.)

Anyway, as a mom, I schedule an August trip to Target for school supplies with the precision of a military operation. We need to go when the selection is good but not picked over, never on a busy weekend, not so early it feels blasphemous but not so late we feel rushed. (Clearly I am still a geeky adult.)

And I get a new calendar. I am one of the few people remaining on the planet that uses a paper calendar. It sits on my kitchen counter all year, and I can’t make a single appointment or plan without consulting it. I buy the ones that start in September, and when I buy a new one, the old one joins a stack of messy used books, with scribbles and the kitchen stains of a year and random notes stuck in the pages.

Yesterday I got my calendar. When we got home, I started writing birthdays and school holidays and even the beach dates for next year in its pages.

It started with the birthdays. As I wrote "Caroline’s 10th birthday" or "Jack’s 8th birthday," I got a little wistful, feeling that the year was going to pass in a heartbeat, a mere turn of the page.

And then my weirdness came out. I remembered writing "Mom's 63rd birthday" one year and then, because she had cancer, suddenly realizing that I might turn to that page on January 26 and see that entry and she wouldn’t be here, and that wouldn’t be her birthday. (She was and it was. But she died two months later. I still write her birthday in my calendar every year, just because I feel disloyal omitting her. I told you I was weird.)

Then my tangent started to spiral. Writing my in-laws' birthdays or my dad’s birthday suddenly seized me with panic: was I jinxing them? If I write down "14 year anniversary" am I dooming myself to divorce? If I write "last day of school" for next June am I guaranteed the kids will have had yet another great year, and will they bound out of their classrooms in search of PTA popsicles like they just did last June? Or not? Should I just leave that day blank?

Then (and this is how I know I’m not crazy), I realized I was acting all crazy. Even just in my thoughts; I wasn’t hopping around the kitchen hooting like an owl. Do you have to hop around hooting like an owl to be crazy, or can you be crazy just because you think crazy things? If you know you’re being crazy does that mean you’re rational and not really crazy?

Oh, for God’s sake. I can’t worry about being crazy right now. The calendar is done, and I need to go count all our puzzle pieces to make sure we’re not missing any.

Just kidding. I’m not that crazy.

(Plus I already did that.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It ain't pretty, but it's honest

So I had a real, honest job this morning (oh, how I love people who pay me to write). (Ergo, yes, my love can be bought. And it’s not really that expensive.) And a good friend came and picked up my children and took them out for Slurpees (a fascination in my house since we avoid consuming food coloring, caffeine, excessive sugar and any shade of blue not found in nature) and doughnuts and brought them to her house.

Where she watched their screechy plays. Where she fed them snacks. Where she hugged hurt feelings, punished evildoers and mitigated disputes. She got bandaids, made mac and cheese, listened to soliloquies about the state fair and the state of the summer and the state of sheep in Uzbekistan, for all I know, because I wasn’t there.

I was here. In my office, in my blessedly silent house, but for the typing of my keypad and the occasional thwack of a Diet Coke being opened. Here, taking the dog for an extra walk, just because I like breezes and today is breezy. Here, making doctor appointments and finally canceling karate and doing the dishes. Here, taking a long, hot, totally uninterrupted shower. Here, where I am not flushing forgotten toilets or counting servings of fruit.

So all that nostalgia you read about yesterday? Screw it. Come on, school, come on come on come on come on...I am so much nicer when I get a teeny, tiny break from being a fulltime mom. Just a baby break'll do it.

Yes, that makes me a bad person. Very, very bad. Rotten.

And I’ll mull that over as I drink this margarita and finish my book.

Really. I promise.

Monday, August 15, 2011

This post will bore you but writing it made me happy.

T minus two weeks and school starts. I’m not elated about that; I’m generally a little wistful about the passage of time and the aging of my children. I’m not distraught about that, either; I’ve had enough long summer days to feel like we’ve gotten lots of relaxing and playing and laughing and arguing and rule-ignoring.

One thing I am anticipating with a bit of dread is my fall schedule. I’m not a relaxer myself...give me a rainy Sunday afternoon (like yesterday) and you won’t believe how clean I can get my oven (it looks gorgeous) or how quickly I can organize the junk drawer (awe-inspiring). In that spirit, I have completely over-committed myself for this fall. And winter. And spring.

Seriously. I won’t list all the volunteer positions I’ve accepted, or the paid positions I’ve been lucky enough to be offered, or the general busy-ness of all I have on my plate. But trust me...there won’t be many spare minutes.

So on the heels of thinking about all the to-dos I’ll have and time management skills I’ll need to practice, I keep getting hit over the virtual head with online articles about being present. I keep reading tips on being present to Whit, I keep wondering if I will ever be the kind of person who can actually slow down enough to really be present. Probably not.

But, as I get all those articles in my inbox and think about trying to be present, just for a second, I do know this. If I could bottle this minute right now, I would. I would bottle my children. I would bottle Caroline asking me to scratch her back or play with her hair. I’d bottle her braces and her smile and her ponytail and her butterfly kisses and the way she can still build forts and play with Play Doh for hours. I’d bottle the happiness she gets from play dates. I’d bottle the Polly Pockets that still inhabit Dora’s talking doll house and I’d bottle the way she plays school and I’d bottle her hugs and her laugh. I’d bottle the way she still wants me to brush her hair and I’d bottle both the little girl I adore and the big girl trying to emerge.

I’d bottle Jack. I’d bottle his incredibly funny sense of humor and his wiggly teeth and Bongo, his favorite stuffed animal, and his footy pajamas and his thumb and his tendency to rub my back because he knows it always hurts. I’d bottle the times he crawls into my bed or my lap or my arms and I’d bottle his sparkly eyes and I’d bottle those little hands that still have indents instead of knuckles. I’d bottle the little boy who will cry if he’s sad and laugh if he’s happy and correct Caroline’s table manners if he’s feeling impertinent. I’d bottle his silly karate chopping and the way he sticks out his tongue when he’s concentrating.

I’d bottle Whit. I’d bottle the way he roughhouses with the kids and brings me my coffee, perfectly prepared, when I’m just barely awake. I’d bottle our nighttime glasses of wine and our hotly competitive games of Bananagrams and Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit and gin rummy. I’d bottle how hard he works and I’d bottle how funny he can be and I’d bottle his camping and his fishing and his hiking. I’d bottle the snow forts he makes, I’d bottle the sand castles he makes, and I’d bottle the excellent hugs he saves for us. I’d bottle his corny jokes and his fierce devotion to his family.

I’d even bottle myself. I’d bottle my health, for sure. I’d bottle my running and my cooking and my reading and my redneck garden. I’d bottle my nutty dad living in the basement and I’d bottle my nutty siblings
and their families and their cute kids. I’d bottle my friends, so so fast, and I’d bottle my cute little neighborhood. I’d bottle my glasses of wine and my blog and my midlife crisis and even my frantic schedule. I’d bottle the parties I love to throw and the chocolate chip cookies I love to make. I’d bottle the ridiculous dog and the way he steals dinner off the counter and the way he stands on the upstairs landing early every morning and sneezes loudly. I'd bottle the way I can't do math and the way I laugh loudest at my own jokes. I’d bottle the happiness that sometimes brings me to tears, and I’d even bottle the worry that sometimes keeps me up at night, because it’s all part of right now.

So, there you go. I was present for the fifteen minutes it took me to write this post. If you got bored after the second paragraph, I’m really sorry, and I don’t blame you. Usually this blog is about making you laugh. Today it’s more about making me stop DOING for a second.

And it worked. I guess all the articles taught me a little something.

Here’s the one that got me started: Zen Habits.

And if you read this far, thanks.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The power of television

Do you guys remember the post on Jack and the infomercials? The kid loves infomercials.

This morning, we hit a new low. He was laying in our bed, watching cartoons. Suddenly he ran downstairs and into the kitchen and handed me the phone, where I heard a lady saying, "Hello? Sir?"

"Jack, who is it?" I whispered.

"Mommy, talk to her! She needs your credit card number!"

Jack had called the number to order Slushy Magic. Really, they let a six year old get all the way to the point where they need a credit card.

He is either incredibly smart and determined OR so totally manipulative I need to worry about him turning into a serial killer.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oh, Google, you fickle friend

Ah, a little levity to end my torturous karate week. Today, since it’s Friday and it’s a beautiful day, I’ll share something random with you that is just cracking me up.

First, I have to tell you that I write this blog best locked in my office, without a thought that anyone (especially anyone I know) actually reads it. If I pictured my very dignified Yale-MBA friend reading an entry, I couldn’t write the word “fart.” (Although I really love her because she told me she secretly finds bathroom humor hysterical.) I couldn’t make sex jokes if I thought of my sweet southern mother-in-law reading every word, and I couldn’t talk about my crazy family if I thought my siblings were readers (oh, wait, I don’t talk about that. Never mind).

Anyway, that said, I do run analytics programs to see how many people read it and I do get a little thrill when I find out that hundreds of different people have viewed the blog in a given month. I just hit a great number and was pleased knowing I had that many readers.

Until I clicked on a little tab showing me why people visited the site.
Those of you who read it regularly and laugh and sometimes tell me you like it, thank you. I can’t tell you how validating you are to me.

But...apparently a significant number of people come to Mama Drama after they’ve typed search words into Google or another search engine.

Oh, how very, very humbling.

Here we go...the most interesting searches that led people to Mama Drama:

1. Chicken torture

2. Female truckdrivers showing their tits

3. Restroom poop

4. Mad pregnant mom takes pictures of daughter after enema story

5. Boobs jumping off a high dive

6. Can I get an amen for fried oysters

7. Higglytown heroes have lice

8. Child eats hemorrhoid cream

9. Torture my dog and I don’t know why

10. And something in Arabic (oh, my little Middle Eastern friend. You’ve been there for me since the beginning.)

Yeah, I get it, I get it. I talk too much about my boobs and poop. But seriously...chicken torture?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My name is Julie, and I am a horrible mother.

I have decided the crappiest feeling in the whole world is to realize you’ve done something as a parent that SUCKS.

You know, when you feel like the Octomom is morally superior to you. When you feel like Casey Anthony was more caring toward her child than you’ve been. When you feel like the universe is saying, “Everyone parents better than you do and your children will surely grow up to dismember small animals.”

(No. I am not given to hyperbole, and I am not being dramatic.)

Of course I’m talking about karate. And Jack. Sweet Jack.

(First shark week, now karate week. Everything has a theme these days.)

Anyway, when Whit and I got frustrated at the lack of participation and the tears, maybe we were a little tough on him. Not like beating-his-ass tough, but tough like, “You need to go back, you need to toughen up, you need to get through a class without crying to decide if you like it or not.” That's what we said.

We later discovered that apparently Jack heard, "You're a big crybaby and we will be so disappointed in you if you don't love karate."

We meant well, honestly. We wanted him to make a decision separate from his emotions. We didn’t want him to miss out on all of karate just because he needed some time to get adjusted.

So, dutiful Jack went back to karate. Dutiful Jack didn’t cry. Dutiful Jack listened and kicked and punched and tried not to look confused when everyone counted to ten in Japanese. Dutiful Jack smiled his little six-year-old, haggle-toothed smile and said, “I love it!”

We believed him; we didn't yet know the scope of the damage. So we thought, good! It worked! He's happy! We were right! Yea for me! Yea for Whit! Yea for Jack!

He went to another class yesterday. He clearly didn’t love it. He didn’t really like it. I could tell. Caroline could tell. The teachers could tell. A blind, deaf mutant could tell. A newborn could tell. A newborn mutant could tell.

Dutiful Jack said, “I love it!”

Then I entered the horribly awkward conversation of, “I know you don’t love it, you can tell me you don’t love it, I want you to be happy, I’m sorry if I made you feel you had to love it, let’s just end this now.”

Chin trembling. “But I love it.”

“No, you don’t.”

Tears welling up in his eyes. “Yes, I do.”

Damnit all and SHIT. First I pressured him to love it, now I’m pressuring him to not love it, and he’s like a well-trained parrot. So I’m saying what I think he wants to hear and he’s saying what he thinks I want to hear and the whole thing is a colossal train wreck.

This is what I wish had happened. I wish Jack had tried it and not liked it. And I wish I was a normal, non-psychotic mother and I had just said, “Okay, honey, glad you tried it. It had to be tough getting through that class when you obviously weren’t comfortable.”

But noooooo I had to screw the whole thing up. Now the word “karate” makes me break out in hives. And it kind of makes Jack twitch.

Regrets. As Tracy Jordan said, they’re only useful in horseshoes and handbags. (And now I’m quoting 30 Rock. The regrets are piling up by the minute.)

Ugh. Bad mommy. It’s no wonder I drink.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A midlife crisis that’s not my own

Maybe it’s just the time of life that they start to hit. We all know I’m having a midlife crisis; I write a blog, for heaven’s sake. Here I am, one of the most private people on the planet, and I routinely do the equivalent of showing you my underwear on a daily basis. Obviously it hits all of us differently: some people lose thirty pounds, some people start torrid affairs or get divorced, some buy snazzy sports cars. My husband? He becomes an extreme weekend warrior.

I should have known something was up with the Brokeback Mountain trip. Really, the thought of warding off bears just to drink beer around a campfire doesn’t appeal to most normal people.

After that, he sought out one of the top golf pros in the area, took an hourlong lesson and started mumbling in his sleep about missed putts and long drives.

Then he went through a pumping iron phase and pulled muscles that I don’t actually believe exist. He'd get stuck on P90X infommercials for thirty minutes at a time.

Then he told me he wanted to get recertified as a pilot. And maybe skydive.

Now this.

Whit came home last night, later than usual, sweaty. Most wives would get pretty suspicious, but I know my husband, so I just looked at him and said, “What have you been doing?”

“Karate!” he proudly exclaimed. The guy was beaming.

“Jul, I just tried a karate lesson! It was awesome! The guy kicked my ass! He told me to punch him, and in two seconds I was down on my knees with what’s probably a broken arm!”

Oh, come on. Really?

Let me explain Whit to you. He’s tall, maybe a little over six feet. He played soccer in college, on a scholarship, so he was good. Since then, he’s tacked about twenty pounds (I’m so, so kind) on to his playing weight and what was once called “deceptive speed” has become a distinct mosey. Or lope – he’s kind of a loper. He goes nowhere fast, and does nothing fast, not even talk fast...he can still stretch out a sentence with a hint of his Georgia drawl. (Yes, we are totally night and day. I walk, talk, chew, run, and drink faster than he does. Sometimes he gets me a glass of water or a glass of wine and just stands there, waiting for me to down it and ask him for a refill.) I also don’t know him to have an aggressive bone in his body, so the thought of him doing something fast and violent is kind of funny.

Then, later last night, he gave himself away. He looked at me and said, “Does hair grow slower as you get older?”

“I hate to break it to you, honey, but where your head is shiny? That hair’s NEVER going to grow back.”

He was crushed. Poor guy was just waiting for something to sprout up there. But it was proof of what I already knew: he was entrenched in a midlife crisis. And I have no idea what precipitated it.

Maybe his office has hired a group of really athletic young guys (note to self: visit husband in his office more often).

(Uh oh, or maybe his office has hired a group of really hot young girls.) (In that case… note to self: visit husband in his office TODAY.)

It’s okay; this midlife crisis is as harmless as mine (except, maybe, for the skydiving part, even though he would probably even glide to earth s-l-o-w-l-y). It’s not like he’s developed some weird fetish or taken up a dangerous hobby. Could be worse, I guess.

So if you drive by my house and see a middle-aged ninja doing flips across my front lawn? Toss him a toupee and give him a hug. He’s harmless.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Karate or bust

Is there any feeling more frustrating than watching your child refuse to participate?

In anything?

Seriously. It sounds so stupid. Who would get worked up about that? Who cares if your kid wants to sit on the sidelines/in the corner/on your lap/wrapped around your leg and just watch all the friends and fun swirling around him?

Me! I get worked up (surprise, surprise). And so do many of you.

I remember one mom turning purple on the soccer sidelines when her three year old sat resolutely beside her and refused to put one little toe on the field. My sister-in-law showed up for a daycare performance, multiple cameras at the ready, only to have her adorable daughter spot her, cry, and run (permanently) to her. I have taken Jack to many birthday parties and had to extricate myself from his grip just to free him to enjoy the party. It is a very intense form of parenting hell to witness a complete and total, obstinate lack of participation. (In which, by the way, YOU look like the idiot when you lose your mind and try to force the participation. It’s totally a no-win situation. The kid looks like a moron or you do.)

Most recently, it’s karate. Jack is a born karate chopper. He chops at everything in the house...he stacks pillows from the couch and does running, jumping kicks to knock them down. He karate chops my book as I’m reading it, which is a level of annoying you can’t fathom. He chops at the dog, his sister, the guinea pig, the wall. He asks me if it’s okay if he tries to break a glass coffee table with a kick. (I didn’t say he was smart.)

So over the weekend, Whit and I did what any normal parents would do – we took him to a karate studio. (Store? Factory?) He was expected to try out a class.

“First, I want to watch.” Okaaaayyy...

Then...”That sign says I can have a private lesson. I want a private lesson.”

The teacher took him into a room and gave him a private lesson. He loved the poses and the kicking and the crackly paper. Then she said, “Okay, let’s get you in uniform and join the class.”

He looked at us with panic in his eyes. We nodded, encouragingly. Uniform! Yeah! Class! Wahoo!

He went out into the class (WHERE THERE ARE THREE YEAR OLD CHILDREN KICKING ASS). And he started to cry.

Why? Well, alternately because he was “nervous” or the class was “for preschoolers” or he “didn’t know anyone” or “everyone was better at it” or “everyone was looking” – no real reason. He just didn’t want to be out there.

The teacher put her arm around him. He cried harder.

(Come on, lady, where’s the tough love?? You’re a karate teacher. Yell “hi ya!” and get in your fighting stance. Air kick. That’ll surprise him into action.)

Whit and I stood in the office, frustrated beyond belief. JACK! We wanted to yell. You like karate! You want to learn more karate! This is where they teach karate! WHAT’S THE FREAKING PROBLEM?????

He cried his way through the rest of the class. It was so painful to watch.

We went home. No karate. That’s it. Over. We will give you the gift of NO KARATE. EVER. So please stop crying, because you never have to go back.

Then yesterday.


“I loved karate class. Will you sign me up?”

You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I felt the love, but only for a second

This weekend, I was lying down on the couch for a minute. Jack came over and stretched out on top of me. After a minute, he heard my stomach growl.

“Mommy, you’re hungry.”

“That’s okay.”

“No, I’ll be right back.”

I closed my eyes.

Pretty soon I heard, “Now keep your eyes closed but open your mouth.”

While I generally wouldn’t trust a six year old issuing that kind of directive, I had heard the refrigerator open, so I figured it was pretty safe.

He stuck a carrot in my mouth.

I thought what you’re probably thinking: “Wow, what a sweet, thoughtful kid!” I also thought, as any mother would, “Some six year old girl has no idea that you’re going to totally break her heart in 30 (fine) 12 years.”

I started chewing. Jack cocked his head and looked at me quizzically.

“It’s sort of like feeding a horse,” he muttered, almost to himself.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the end of the loving mother/son moment.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another over-the-top moment for this mommy blogger

I have no idea how to make this link look cute, but it's a guest blog post I wrote for the New York Times that was published today. Just click on the "When Parents Fight" and it will take you to the article. Yippee!

When Parents Fight

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A mother by any other name...is called a wife

A while back, I posted an article I wrote a long time ago (seven years ago) about the similarities between dogs and children. Well, since then, I’ve aged (in years, wisdom and clarity), and I now feel as though I have a more accurate similarity to report.

Why having a husband and having children are basically the same thing:

1. Both have stupid ideas. The kids want to stick erasers up their noses to see how many fit. My husband wants to see if beer hats work.

2. Both see no logical reason to make a bed.

3. When I say, “We can’t afford that,” both look at me blankly.

4. Both leave their shit all over the place, just waiting for me to trip, stub my toe, and say the f-word out loud.

5. Both walk over to the refrigerator, open it, and say, “There’s nothing to eat.” Even if I’ve just been to the store. It’s almost Pavlovian.

6. Both complain about doing any household chores. How the hell else would I have learned how to snake a toilet or identify the fossil of a dead cracker found at the bottom of the craft box??

7. Both think that if I’m reading a book, watching the news or pausing in a conversation on the phone, it’s a great time to talk to me.

8. When they want to cuddle at night, both want to breathe directly onto my face. Who can sleep through that?

9. Both ask if their clothes match. (Kids: Who cares? Husband: You’re FORTY FOUR. I know your mother taught you well. Your synapses have now officially given up on you.)

10. If our house caught fire, everyone would freeze, look at me, and ask me what my plans were.

If you don’t believe me that they're the same, ask my friend, who is currently traipsing through Harry Potter World with her husband and nine-year-old daughter. That trip is the only thing her husband wanted for his 50th birthday. If you look at her carefully worded posts on Facebook, you’d say to yourself, “How adorable! That cute little family really loves Harry Potter and enjoys eating fried food for every meal!”

My friend called yesterday: “Shoot me now.”

Most of us moms privately agree that if it weren’t for the whole sex thing, lesbians have got it all going on.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August was added to the calendar to torture me.

OKAY. Fine.

I’ll be the one to say it.

Other moms are thinking it but they’re too chicken to say it. Or do it.

I am running away.

By myself.

To a beach, probably, with a vineyard next door. And an unlimited Amazon account.

I love my children. Really.

I love my husband. I promise.

But I am so sick and tired of all of them that I want to take a handkerchief (no, too small. A bath towel? Too common. And old Hermes scarf? Perfect!), fill it with essentials, like my retinol and a toothbrush, tie it to a stick (hmmm, don’t have a stick, maybe my husband’s old crutch would work) and resolutely march down the street.

No, wait, rewind. Get in the car that’s come to pick me up. The limo, let’s say.

And then it will take me to my beach. Well, after it drops me off at the yacht that’s taking me to my...island. Better than just a beach. My island.

And no one else will live there.

Except for one hot lifeguard.

(No, no, no...tangent. Dangerous tangent.) Back to the island, and me there, alone.

Where I don’t have to cook dinner. I don’t have to pay bills. I don’t have to listen to “HE LICKED MY ARM AFTER I SNEEZED ON IT!” or “Honey, I hate my job. Can’t you earn some money?”

Where I don’t have to spend 20 minutes at the pet store trying to figure out if the (stupid, pointless) frogs need frog food or if they can survive on the (equally stupid and pointless) fish’s food.

Where I don’t have to panic over the discoloration in my dog’s poop or my six year old’s inability to say the letter “r” or wondering if my daughter is going to end up a serial killer.

(Oh, honey, I’m just kidding. I know you’re not a serial killer. But sometimes you get mad, and you do give me a pretty mean look, and, frankly, you’re very cute but at that moment you’re a little scary.)

Where I don’t have to say, “If you open your eyes when you walk, you won’t run into the wall.”

Where I don’t have to enforce time outs, or budgets, or lessons, or chores, or television limits, or food groups, or good hygiene.

Where no one wants to wiggle their loose teeth in my face, even though it grosses me out. Jack.

Where no one says, “Can you buy...”or “If I pay you back...” or “Why can’t I have an iTouch like the children whose parents really love them?”

Where the words “I’m bored” and “playdate” are never, ever uttered.

Just me. And a comfortable beach chair, and a good book, and a glass of wine, and a view of the ocean.

I’ll send a postcard, I swear.


In a while.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The birds and the bees and the f-word

Talking about sex isn’t really my thing. I didn’t talk to my mom about it, I don’t talk to my friends about it (well, okay, sometimes I talk to my friends about it. What else are we going to talk about it as we drown ourselves in wine on a summer night?). (Wellll...okay...my friends know a lot.) (But anyway.)

Caroline is nine and a half. Totally innocent until last year -- third grade. In third grade, two things happened:

1. She finally figured out that there was television beyond Charlie and Lola, and shamed me into letting her watch shows I didn't like. Really, the kid had never seen Hannah Montana...it probably was some obscure form of child abuse. In my defense, though, I was just trying to avoid all the boy/girl stuff for as long as I could. It worked, until...

2. She went to a new pool with a friend. Adorable, sweet friend. But, despite my best efforts, I cannot control the entire world, and there were other kids at the pool. She came home and said, “What is sex?”

Aw, shit.

Me: “Well, sex is what a man and a woman do to have a baby.”

(Encouraging smile on my face, but in a “there you go, no more questions” kind of way.)

Caroline: “Mom? That’s just not going to cut it.”

Okaayyy...I got slightly more technical, but not really technical. This is a kid who, when hugged by a naked Jack when she was five, said: “Jack! Don’t you know it’s not polite to hug someone when you’ve got your penis on?” Same child who later said, in an exasperated, big-sister way, “Jack, how many times do I have to tell you this? You have a penis and I have an agenda.” She couldn’t handle technical.

A week went by.


Oh no.

“Am I going to catch that puberty thing?”

Oh no.

Pulled out the bible for most moms, the American Girl book. Flipped through it, summarized each page.

“I can’t believe you would show me a book with such inappropriate pictures.”

Oh. My. God.

Another week went by. Another trip to the neighborhood pool.

“What’s the f-word?”

(Note to self: keep her away from that f***ing pool.)

Okay. At this point I’ve exhausted my knowledge, exhausted my sex library, exhausted Google typing in, “How to teach your kids about sex/puberty/bad language/skanky friends.” I’ve told her EVERYTHING. In as many ways as I could, despite not really wanting to say a word. The kid has knowledge.

Watching television with her last night and an Always commercial comes on (thanks, Disney, love ‘ya for that): “Mom? Will feminine protection just protect me from girls?”

Yes, Caroline. After you "catch" puberty you will be mauled by hoardes of girls unless you buy feminine protection. Isn't that perfectly clear from all I've told you?

I totally give up. Forget Catholic school; I’ll leave her in coed public school...methinks she’s gonna need the education.