Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yes, these really are the conversations we have

(First of all, let me admit that I am known for asking very weird and random questions, and fully expecting an immediate, honest, thought-provoking answer. It’s a quirk.)

Me to Whit: If you could be married to you, would you be?

Whit: Well, I wouldn’t want to be you. I wouldn’t want to blog and do all that volunteer shit you do.

Me: No, I mean would you be married to YOU if you were ME?

Whit: Um, no. I’m a pain in the ass.

Me: I’d be married to me. Because I am pretty nice to you, even when you’re a pain in the ass.

Silence. Whit thinks the conversation is over.

But no.

Me: Would you be your own kid?

Whit: Yeah, I’d be my own kid. I’m a good dad.

Me: Yeah, I’d be my own kid, too. We’re pretty good parents. The kids seem happy.


But no.

Me: Would you be your own friend?

Whit: I guess so.

Me: I wouldn’t be my own friend. I’m too passive aggressive. I think that would get annoying.

Whit: So let me get this straight…

…You would clone you three times, and then marry yourself and be your own kids? A family of yous? But no friends? Wouldn’t you want to clone you one more time so you’d always have at least one friend?

Me (frustrated): You don’t understand me at all.

Whit: No, I’m actually scared by how well I understand you.

Me: Well, then, maybe you understand that no, I don’t want a family of mes. That’s just dumb.

Whit: But everyone would do everything you said, all the time, and no one would talk back, and everyone would appreciate you.

Me: Maybe you do understand me. Maybe better than I understand myself.

Whit: You’re really strange.

Me: Yeah, but you love me.

Whit: And I'm not even you. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

...but it IS how you play the game

You know how, when you were little, grownups acted like grownups? They were above pettiness and brinkmanship and they were just sort of removed from childish competition?

Well, I missed the mom memo about that one.

I used to think I wasn’t competitive. Then I ran the ten miler and I ran it 28 seconds per mile slower than last year (which is like a m-i-l-l-e-n-i-u-m slower in the running world) and I wanted to pull my hair out and scream and I realized that okay, I’m kind of competitive with myself.

But not with anyone else. I’m sure of it.

Then I realized that Whit and I will be somewhere with both our cars and, just to torment me, he’ll say, "Race you home" because he knows that, once challenged, I will drive like a bat out of holy hell with Satan himself on my tail to pull into the driveway first.

But that’s it. I’m competitive with myself, and my husband. And kind of immature. Certainly that's it. Just that.

Oh, but then.

Then the kids will ask the neighbors to go to the park and have a family versus family wiffle ball tournament.

And, let’s just say, their kids play differently than ours do.

Like they move the bases. And hide them.

Or like they intercept the ball and throw it away, down the field, so their team can score.

Or like they get really mad if they’re out, and they stomp off and leave the game for an unspecified period of time.

Or like they just walk away from the base they’re on and start rolling down the hill.

So, that all can happen, and I can bite down on the competitive boil that’s simmering in me and I can laugh and say, "Oh, ha ha ha ha ha, kids." In my head, I’ll add, "YOUR kids, that is."

Then. Then one of their kids will slide into second base. A sliiiiiide. A good slide. A great slide. But, unfortunately, a hard slide. The kind of slide with which you know he’s wishing he could turn back time to that morning and put on pants, not shorts, because he’s got a dirt-burn up the side of his leg that probably hurts like hell.

Then we’ll rush over and make sure he’s okay and then his dad will say, "Hey, at least you slid in under the tag."

And I, the second basewoman, will clear my throat, and look at Whit, and set my mouth, and shake my head so slightly.

And then his dad will say, enthusiastically, "Great playing! Mrs. Kennon couldn’t tag you!"

And I, with the fresh memory of tagging the base with the ball a good solid hour before that kid came close to me, will start to get agitated. I will give Whit a capital-L Look and a slightly more emphasized shake of the head.

And Whit will give me a wary look that clearly means, "He’s a kid. And he’s hurt. So let’s just call it safe."

And I can’t do that. Because he was out. Hurt or not, I tagged the base. And fair is fair. And that’s three outs, so it’s our turn at bat. Or they need to forfeit, and we’re winning.

But no one is paying attention to me.

And so I start to sulk.

And then Whit is in the horrible position of lecturing me, a grownup, about my attitude (to which I reply that MY attitude is not really the problem) and half the team gets tired of the drama and starts rolling down the hill and the game goes up in flames and I’m trying to get just one person to admit that kid was out and we won.

And then Jack will look at me, and laugh at me, and say, "Mommy, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose as long as you have fun" and I want to look at him and say, "That is CRAP and you know it" but I can’t because I did actually get the mom memo on that.

And then Caroline will sidle up to me and say, "Mom, seriously? He was totally out."

And I will feel vindicated, and I will hold my head high, and I will walk off the field feeling like an adult again.

And then Whit will wink and say, "Race you home."

And I will realize that people can stop waiting for me to grow up, because I just don't think it's ever going to happen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

In defense of crazy mothers: I’ve been there

Say we’re both on a playground. And say you don’t know me. And say one of my kids gets whacked in the face with a stick/fist/swing/low-flying bird. And say said kid (and say it three times fast) is bleeding profusely.

I’d say, “Hmmm, sweetie, looks like you might need stitches. Hold this slightly used Kleenex and apply pressure, and we’ll zip on over to the doctor.”

And, after I calmly gathered my children and things and walked to the car, you might say to your friends, “That woman has her act together. What a totally calm mother. Very impressive.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s me today.

But that was not me nine years ago, when I had my first baby.

As I discovered. In a humiliating way.

See, I took the kids to the doctor yesterday. Jack needed his seven-year checkup and Caroline, who is nine, came along to get a flu shot. In between the doctor and the nurse and the peeing in a cup and the shots, I was in the room for a while with the kids, and their charts.

Jack’s has maybe seven pieces of paper in it. Caroline’s is about three feet thick.

I flipped through Jack’s (is that legal? I’d assume so) and it said, basically, “Big healthy boy. Big healthy boy. Strep. Big healthy boy. Ear hurts. Big healthy boy.” Pretty unremarkable, pretty accurate.

But then I flipped through Caroline’s. I started at the beginning (and noted that she was described at birth as a “black female” infant. Such observant doctors attending to my daughter’s birth! The child, to this day, barely tans. I have no idea where that came from).

Then I immediately noticed, with mounting horror, that they had taped every phone message I had ever left for the pediatrician in her file. And then the nurse had written her response.

Ooooh, it’s bad.

Really mortifying.

But I’m honest, so here we go:

Mother called. Daughter is crying. “Suggested mom feed her.”

Mother called. Daughter has diarrhea. “Suggested it’s because she’s breastfed.”

Mother called. Urine in diaper looks darker than normal. “Suggested increased liquids.”

Mother called. Daughter has a rash. “Suggested it’s dry skin.”

Mother called. Daughter is moving jerkily when music is turned on. “Suggested she’s dancing.”

Mother called. Daughter spit out avocado. “Suggested she try sweet potatoes.”

Mother called. Daughter sleeping a lot. “Suggested she’s tired.”

Mother called. Daughter has a fever. “Suggested Motrin.”

Mother called. Daughter is covered with purple spots. “Suggested mom hide the markers.”

Mother called. Daughter is sneezing a lot. “Suggested she has a cold. Mother suggested allergies. This was a very long conversation.”

I am NOT kidding about this – those are the notes in Caroline’s medical file. They’ll be there forever, unless I can sneak in at night and redact a few hundred pages. The kids and I were hooting with laughter. Caroline said, “Wow, Mommy, you were nuts back then!” Jack was still laughing at me at dinner last night.

When the doctor walked back in, I almost threw myself at his feet. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I was crazy. And you probably had sick kids in here and I took up all your time with stupid questions about my baby. And I’m not stupid, but having a baby made me really stupid. And then having another one made me smart again. But during that stupid period, I had you on speed dial. And I’m so, so sorry.”

Thankfully, he laughed. Thankfully, he said most new mothers are crazy, and part of the job in a pediatrician’s office is to calm mothers until their first baby turns two or they have a second child. Both seem to be milestones, I guess, that shake you loose from the craziness.

So to all you nutty new mothers out there, I say: Embrace your craziness! Go ahead, panic over purple spots. Because your child will grow out of diapers, too fast...and you'll grow out of your craziness, just in time. Until then, be a mom, whatever that looks like.

Just a little advice for you, though. First, Motrin cures almost everything. Try it before you call.

Second, don't leave messages for the nurse. They'll really come back to bite you. Trust me on that one.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How I wish I had a mouse in my house.

I’m one of five kids, all very close in age. When you have five kids, there’s some competition, and some jockeying to be the favorite. Even as adults, though it’s more subtle and no one really admits it, we all want to be seen as "the best" by my dad.

I usually never win. I’m handicapped by the panic and hysteria that are in direct contrast to his calm and rational personality, and I firmly believe he has spent at least half his life rolling his eyes at me.

Now my dad lives with us, in a basement apartment, and while he’s incredibly self-sufficient and rarely asks me for help, occasionally he needs something.

And, because I want him to acknowledge (just once) that yes, I am the best of the bunch, I react swiftly when he needs something. Sometimes too swiftly.

My phone rang. Caller ID showed it was my dad.

"Hey, Jul, do you have a mouse trap?"

"Um, no, not handy. Did you see a mouse?"

"Yes, I saw a mouse scurry by..."

I cut him off. I had my orders.

"Dad, say no more. I’m on it. Don’t worry."

In a girly panic, I called the exterminator. On his cell phone. And told him to come over, NOW, with mouse-hunting gear at the ready. I told him to spare no expense, spare no equipment...just "find that stinkin' mouse."

My dad was running an errand when the exterminator came. I practically gave this man license to knock down walls. He searched every cabinet, every closet, every corner of my dad’s apartment. He looked through the linen closet and behind the refrigerator. He set sticky traps everywhere. He sprayed mind-numbing anti-mouse spray. He possibly cast an anti-mouse spell, because I made it clear to him we are not a hospitable mouse house and he was to do whatever it took to eradicate all mice and ban them for good.

After a solid hour (plus), he came upstairs.

"Mrs. Kennon," he said, mopping his sweaty brow, "I turned that place upside down. I don’t see evidence of a single mouse. I don’t know that there was a mouse, but that place is totally mouse free now. And I’m pretty sure no mouse could survive down there for long, so it should stay mouse free."

I thanked him and wrote him a check. Not a small check. Because it was an emergency, and we were to make absolutely sure my dad didn’t have to worry about mice. Because I care. Because I am a fantastic daughter.

A few hours later, I told my dad what I had done. I was quite proud of the lengths to which I’d gone to solve the problem, so I described in detail every mouse-icidal measure we had taken.

Admittedly, there was a strong hint of "Look at what a good daughter I am, you had a problem and I fixed it quickly and well and you didn’t have to worry about a thing" in my delivery.

He listened.

He nodded.



"Yes, Dad?"

"You never let me finish."

"The mouse I saw was outside."

"But thanks."

OUTSIDE? You saw a mouse OUTSIDE? That’s where they BELONG, Dad. You don’t set mouse traps OUTSIDE. And you don’t say, "I saw a mouse" to your panic-y DAUGHTER and not expect her to go into DEFCON 1. You don’t let me cut you off without giving me that important detail, Dad. Because I just spent a fortune and eliminated every mouse in the damn county because I was being THE BEST CHILD, Dad.

Did I say that? No.

He was looking far too amused for me to spoil it.

Foiled again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

a droopy rainy post on a droopy rainy day

Okay, so I’m still a little stuck, but I’m thinking I have to purge myself of this before I can go back to normal. Whatever that was.

Cancer and early death have been all around me this week. Not in a way that begs your condolences, thank God, but in a way that’s made me very aware of my temporary existence on this planet. And it’s got me thinking about what I need to do to be remembered the way I want to be remembered.

I won’t be remembered, I’m sure, for climbing Mt. Everest or writing a bestselling novel (not that I won’t try for either, but I don’t need them to be my legacy. And okay, I won’t really attack Mt. Everest, because I’m afraid of heights.) My legacy won’t be that I made billions of dollars in tech inventions or that I gave everything I own to the poor. I probably won’t be remembered for curing cancer or bringing medical treatments to impoverished nations. In different ways, I’d love to do all those things, but they’re not the type of thing I need to be remembered for.

Rather, I’d like my children to be able to recall my laugh for years and years after I’m gone. I want to be remembered for killer chocolate chip cookies and raunchy jokes. I want to be remembered for steadfast loyalty. I want to be remembered as a good friend. A good mom. A good wife, sister, neighbor. I want to be remembered as the one who’d always help. I want to be remembered as someone who could keep a secret. I want to be remembered as the coach, the room parent, the teacher. I want to be remembered as a wine-swilling, chocolate-hoarding mom who ran races and read and gardened and cooked.

I want people to remember my hugs, and remember how much I meant them. I want people to remember my irreverence and the way I’d try so hard to get a laugh from just about anyone. I want to be remembered as someone who loved deeply, and strongly. I want to be remembered as someone fiercely devoted to her family; as a mom regularly brought to tears by the depth of her love for her children.

I think, if I were to die tomorrow, those things would mostly be remembered. I hope they’re all just a part of who I am.

But then it gets tricky.

Because I also want to be remembered as someone who wasn’t petty or jealous or manipulative. I want to be remembered as the one who didn’t repeat harmful gossip or have temper tantrums when things didn’t go well. I want to be remembered as the mom who never yelled, the wife who never pouted, the neighbor who never rolled her eyes. I want to be remembered as the steadfast fighter who never lost hope and the ray of light others sought when in despair. I want to be remembered as loving myself unconditionally, and not trying to change those I love.

That’s all going to be harder. I can be petty (I don’t answer the phone if I’m mad and you call), and jealous (I think most skinny people probably have unresolved issues), and manipulative (I’m not going to give you an example or you’ll know when I’m doing it). Sometimes I do repeat harmful gossip and sometimes I throw a holy fit when I get bad customer service or a friend treats me poorly. I yell and I pout and I roll my eyes. I despair, and sometimes I hate myself, and sometimes I think the world would be a better place if everyone would just LISTEN to me.

See? Not a list of things I’m proud of, to be sure, but an honest list. I guess it’s my marching orders, starting today, and ending on the day people start talking about me in the past tense.

Likely, I’ll be 98. That’s Whit’s prediction for how long I’ll live. But, as I’ve been reminded this week, in some ways I’m lucky to have made it to 41. It’s possible I won’t make it to 42. Or 50. Or 65.

It’s possible I won’t live through tomorrow, but I’m still going to pay the bills, just in case.

I guess maybe, though, wondering about how I’ll be remembered tomorrow will give me a little perspective for how I should act today. I'll probably screw it up. But at least I'll try.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oh. This is what writer's block feels like.

Hi. I’m still alive. I don’t suffer from any psychological disorders (that we know) and so my silence this week isn’t indicative of some sort of psychic break. I haven’t been hit by a bus or diagnosed with anything scary. I haven’t been so so so so so busy that I can’t find time to do my favorite thing, which is write.

In fact, I’ve started TEN blog posts in the past three days. Some of them have been sad (cancer is shooting deadly laser darts at so many people these days) and some of them have been funny (I got far too competitive when my children "boo-ed" people in the neighborhood). Some of them have been perplexing (what business does Amazon have selling sex toys?) and some of them have been whiny (I didn’t like my time in the Army Ten Miler this past weekend). But none of them have been interesting. And if I’m writing them and they’re not interesting, I am most positive you won’t think they’re interesting. I just haven’t clicked with myself. (I could make a funny Amazon sex toy joke right now, but come on. My mother-in-law reads this blog.)

I’ve been bummed about being in a rut. I went to an open house this week, in which I sat in on Jack’s reading class. His group was reading Houndsley and Catina and poor Catina wanted to be a writer and sat and wrote and wrote and wrote and finally Houndsley told her she was a terrible writer. I sat my big butt in that little chair and wanted to cry in solidarity with poor little misguided Catina. "I know how you feel, you crazy cat!" I wanted to sob. "I can't write, either!"

Anyway, Whit told me it’s rude to just stop posting things when I’ve posted about five times a week since March 10, when I started this blog. I countered that my writer’s block is uninteresting. He countered that it is akin to ignoring your friend just because you’re having a bad day. And I don't want to be rude. Or tacky, but that's another post entirely.

So, sorry. Really sorry. It really sucks that everything I am writing this week really sucks.

Maybe the fact that one of the preschoolers pulled down his pants today and peed on the playground equipment (in front of ten visiting parents) will seem like good blog fodder tomorrow. For now, I’ll just laugh on the inside.

And if you actually read this far, and if you're actually wondering why I haven't posted anything this week, then I might actually love you. Like love love.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Breakfast. The most exhausting meal of the day.

This was our breakfast table conversation this morning:

Caroline: Ava got a new guinea pig for her birthday. It’s a boy.

Me: How exciting! He can come play with Lilly.

Caroline consults her guinea pig information sheet: No, he's too young. They can’t play together until he’s...he’s...what’s this word?

Me: Neutered.

Caroline looks at me expectantly. I sigh.

Neutered means they won’t have babies.

Jack: How can a boy have babies?

Me, warily: A boy can’t have babies. But it takes a male and a female to have babies.

Jack: Why?

Me: Isn’t it time for school?

Jack: No, really, why? I want to know.

Me, sighing again: Okay. A male has sperm, and a female has eggs. That’s true with guinea pigs or dogs or people. The sperm and the egg together make a baby.

Jack: How?

Me: Well, the sperm gets to the egg and they combine.

Jack: But how does the sperm get to the egg? With people?

Quick “A goes into B and you get C” explanation.

Jack: Hee hee hee. Caroline, Mommy said penis.

Jack: Penis. That’s a funny word.

Jack, confidentially: My penis is very interesting.

Caroline: Can you tell Jack to stop saying penis? It’s gross. I’m eating.

Jack: PEEEEnis. PeNISSS. Penis penis penis.

Caroline: Mom. Please.

Me: No more penis talk. Let’s go to school.

Jack: Why are we talking about this anyway?

Caroline: Yeah, Mommy, isn’t that a little inappropriate? He’s only in first grade.

Jack: I’m telling my friends you said penis.

Me: Jack, YOU said penis. And you brought it up.

Jack: There you go again. You said it again.

Caroline to Jack: I’m sorry she keeps saying that. It’s totally inappropriate. I was just talking about Ava’s guinea pig.

Me, mentally getting down on my hands and knees and slamming my head into the pavement over and over: Goodbye, kids. Love you. Have a good day.

Caroline, over her shoulder: And no more inappropriate talk when you pick us up, okay?

Sidekick Jack: Yeah.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you should blame it on the stork and keep your mouth shut.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My secret weight-loss plan, unveiled

I went to the doctor for a checkup yesterday, and it was the kind of doctor’s office where they trust you to weigh yourself in the bathroom and then report your weight to the nurse. Well, I stepped on that scale, and I realized all my summer cocktails (sorry, people, but my pool serves wine) and summer baking had sort of caught up with me.

So when I saw the doctor, she looked at the chart and said, “Wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight since last year.” I replied, “Oh please – I totally lied.” She just laughed and said, “I can’t even believe you actually weighed yourself. I am starting to not fit into the largest pants I own, and I refuse to buy the next size up, so I spend my days in scrubs or yoga pants.”

I left there with a little sense of solidarity (and a firm disregard of the fact that she just had a baby) and decided that I needed to get rid of the five to (gulp) eight/nine/ten pounds I’ve packed on in, honestly, a year. That’s not scary, insurmountable weight loss, but because I’m crazy it’s “lose weight before your metabolism stops dead in its tracks and even baby carrots give you a muffin top over your jeans” weight loss.

So, like any good dieter, I thought about the diet choices I have. Weight Watchers? Nah. I love that diet but can’t put that much effort into it. The Paleo diet craze that’s sweeping through all my social circles? And what, not eat bagels? No way. I thought back to high school and the grapefruit diet and the rice diet and the Special K diet and even the Scarsdale diet and none of them appealed to me.

So I looked at how I eat. Frankly, it’s pretty darn healthy, and I am not a huge eater. I run a lot and am very active throughout every day, so it’s not a lack of exercise.

After a lot of introspective and honest thought, the truth hit me. No matter how I tried to tiptoe around them, I could see the culprits staring me in the face: wine and chocolate.

Wine and chocolate are the exact same to me. If they’re in the house, I want them. “One glass of wine,” a friend famously announced, “is simply a tease.” “Yes,” I would reply, “and so is one Hershey’s Kiss. That’s like mouse food. You need at least two in your mouth at once so they melt together.”

Now, if neither is around, I don’t seek them out. I very rarely run to the wine store and I only buy chocolate “for the (ahem) kids.” But when they’re here, I’m nibbling on chocolate and enjoying a glass of wine (or two) with Whit at night.

So I resolutely decided there would be no more wine and no more chocolate until this weight was gone. That’s it. Kaput.


Except that it’s Halloween month. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know my problem with Easter candy. It’s the same with Halloween. Halloween candy just can’t have calories or else it would be irresponsible to sell so much of it so early that there’s no way people are just buying it to give out on Halloween. So maybe I’ll limit the Halloween candy (which yes, I say defensively, I have been buying to give out on Halloween. Mostly). One a week. No, that’s just crazy. One a day. Unless it’s the Kit Kats where it’s really just one in a fun size (bullshit name) and not just two little ones in one wrapper. I want the two little ones in one wrapper, so it could be two of the ones in one wrapper. Okay, good, that’ll help.

Now for the wine. Easy peasy, not drinking wine during the week is easy because I am busy and then I’m just tired. Okay, so maybe I can have a glass of wine on Fridays and Saturdays. No, not Fridays, because I run on Saturday mornings. So then Saturday night I can have wine, but I have to make up for not having wine Friday night, so maybe we’ll move that to Thursday.

So here’s my diet. No chocolate or wine. Except one piece of Halloween candy a day (unless, as we’ve discussed, it’s a bullshit fun size and it’s really little, then I get two). And except for one maybe two glasses of wine on Thursday and Saturday. Done.

Bite me, Jenny Craig. People are going to be ALL OVER this diet. You’ll see.