Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Writer. With an asterisk.

There are a few things that I know about myself for sure.

My name is Clare.

I am married to Bill.

I have four kids. Charlie, Henry, George, and Annabel.

I write this blog.

I would jump in front of a train to save my children. I would maim/kill/seriously injure/castrate/behead anyone who tried to hurt my children.

Yes, I said behead.

And I know you would do the same thing for your kids. When would it be necessary to behead, you ask? Probably never. But jump inside of my head for a minute and I'm sure I could come up with a scenario that would require me to take a samurai sword and chop the head off of a bad guy in order to save my child. That's just how my brain wanders sometimes when I try to be two steps ahead of my children and I worry about what bad things could happen to them, and how I would be required to save them. To say that I have a vivid imagination is an understatement.

I like to go off on tangents. See above.

I like tuna fish and french buttercream frosting. Just not together.

I think Taylor Swift is overrated.

I am a sister to five amazing women.

But in this list of things about me, I don't know that I would ever say that I am a writer. Writers are people who have degrees in English. They have Masters Degrees in English.They wax poetic on topics that they have studied extensively. Their writing is full of intellectual prose. I, on the other hand, am a mommy blogger who writes about poop and pee and my messy kids. I talk about how I have learned how to make my armpit fart as a result of having little boys.

And an armpit fart and a poop joke do not a writer make, so I guess I would call myself a writer*. A writer with an asterisk.

When I started this blog almost a year ago, I wrote in the description, "I am not a real writer. I just play one on my blog."

Lest anyone think that I was going to get all Ernest Hemingway on them.

Sure, I know a thing or two about sentence structure. I know what a run-on is. I know the proper uses of your and you're and there and their and to and too. I know that proper writers do not write statements like, "My minivan has crumbs on the floor, smells like a rotten sippy cup and every time I turn a corner, a stray Matchbox car rolls from one side of it to the other."

No. A real writer I am not.

Right?

At least I thought so. Then I heard of a conference called the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop coming up in April through another mommy blogger I went to college with named Janet. (Her very funny blog is called Muffintop Mommy and you can read it here.) But Janet is a real writer. She wrote for our college newspaper, so she has some street cred. I have a degree in Elementary Education, which, although I no longer teach, it is a profession I was proud of. (And now that I am on the flip-side of it as a parent, I am still in awe of teachers who do it well and do it right. It's truly one of the hardest jobs in the world.) But although I could teach English to my students, I just never thought of myself as a writer.

And Erma Bombeck? Despite the fact that she passed away in 1996, she still remains the pre-eminent humor writer about all funny things related to parenting and motherhood. She is the yardstick by which many humor writers are measured.

I immediately scoffed at the idea of attending this conference. I could find a thousand reasons not to go. It's four days away from my family. Bill would have to take off work and deal with the kids all by himself. The sun might explode while I was away. But Bill simply said, "So what. I can handle it. I think you should go. I want you to do this for yourself."

Yeah, but, "What if..." and I imagined about ten different scenarios that seemed about as likely to happen as me waking up tomorrow in Buckingham Palace as the newly-crowned Queen of England.

So why my self-doubt?

Because it is a conference for humor writers. Funny people. Humor writers are people who write for Conan. 30 Rock. The Soup. Is a humor writer a stay-at-home mom who does laundry, pays bills, fills the dishwasher, carpools, and as an outlet, occasionally sits on her couch with a laptop and writes musings about this wonderful, hilarious, frustrating, messy job called motherhood?

Maybe?

Then, as I sat up in my bed with my laptop on my knees, researching the conference that I so wanted to attend, but was trying to find every reason in the world that I shouldn't attend, I had a mini revelation. An inspiration if you will.

And here's the part where I take you inside this over-loaded brain of mine to let you know how my thought processes work. Put your safety goggles on, people.

You know how one minute you're cooking dinner or bathing the kids or cleaning the playroom and you'll suddenly have a random stray thought or memory and you'll think, "Why the heck did I just think of that?" You're stirring the pasta on the stove and out of the blue you will think of that one 'very special' episode of "Facts of Life" when Tootie ran away to New York City and Mrs. Garrett saved her?

No? Just me?

I told you my brain was over-loaded.

Anyway, as I sat there in my bed with my laptop, Bill long asleep as he gave up trying to convince me to, "just go ahead and sign up for the conference and STOP OVER-ANALYZING CLARE," my finger was poised on the mouse and ready to click "send," on the expensive and NON-REFUNDABLE admission fee. Once I clicked "send," there was no going back. It would be like admitting I was a writer. A humor writer. A humor writer who had enough street cred to cavort with other humor writers at a conference for humor writers.

Ack.

And then one of those aforementioned stray thoughts popped in my head. It was just a random status update that one of my Facebook friends wrote a few weeks ago, and although I didn't comment on it at the time, I remember thinking it was very cool. It was written by Danielle, a very nice girl that I went to high school with. We had classes together, and although we weren't particularly close, I do remember chatting with her from time to time. She wrote as her status update earlier in the month, (and I went back to her page just to check and make sure I got it correct) "So, tonight was my first night of Ballet Class. Yep. That's what I said. MY first night of ballet class in I don't even know how many years. It was awesome. :)"

How cool is that? And that is why other moms inspire me.

Now forgive me, Danielle, as I don't know your dance background, but I am assuming that you were not a professional dancer before becoming a mom to your beautiful daughter. Were you a dabbler in dance? Kind of like how I consider myself a dabbler in this writing thing?

Because here's the thing. Bravo and many kudos to Danielle for not saying, "Dance classes are just for my daughter. I can't possibly take dance classes myself." And it reminded me in that moment that we're never too old, or too much a mom, or too busy with the minutiae of life to go after what we enjoy. We should try to do the things that make us happy. The things that enhance who we are. Why should kids get to have all the fun?

It's such a simple thought. Yet why didn't I think of it on my own?

Then, just like that, I clicked "send" on my computer.

Screw you, self-doubt. I don't have time for you.

That is yet another reason why I sometimes think that Facebook is the bees knees. Sure, there are plenty of times when I learn stuff about people that I wish I didn't know. (Like dude, I know I haven't seen you in years, and we're not exactly close, but I did NOT need to know that you have heartburn after that Chipotle.) But there are plenty of times that I get a good laugh, or learn something that inspires me or makes me think. And although I am not sure why I even remembered her status update, or why it popped in my head, I do know that I was motivated by someone that I haven't seen in nearly a decade.

So thanks, Danielle.

In the meantime, I'm going to go for it, and maybe one of these days I'll work up the courage to call myself a Writer.

Without an asterisk.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

All the world is a stage, and we are merely complainers.

The last thing the world needs right now is another complainer.

But honestly, I'm okay with a little complaining now and again. It's what makes us human and relatable. I don't trust people that never complain about anything. Because really. SomeTHING or someONE in this great big world of ours HAS to bug you. The odds are not in your favor to love everyone and everything with whom you come in contact. So if you never complain, then the little annoyances of life will build up inside of you, eat away at your very essence and then cause you to explode into a million tiny bits.

It's a scientific fact.

Although I have not been to every country on this great, big planet of ours, I can probably say with much confidence that the big ol' U S of A is home to the greatest population of complainers in the world. We take complaining to a whole new level. Yes, we are a generous country, and most of us will help you if you are down and out. We have your back. But despite how good we know we have it, we are human, and can't resist complaining once in awhile.

For instance, a few days after the horrific earthquakes in Haiti, I was filling up the gas tank in my sexy, black, but as of late, a very dirty grayish-colored Honda Odyssey minivan, (jealous much?) and I was parked behind what looked to be like a brand-new, shiny, silver, large, very expensive Mercedes sedan. The owner was standing there on her iPhone chatting away at the pump, (Um, lady, you do know that you can self-combust that way, don't you?) and loudly complaining about the fact that she has to put premium gas in her aforementioned Mercedes, while saying, "It just STINKS how expensive premium gas is these days!" Ahem. And I thought to myself:

Haiti should have such problems.

So as much as I subscribe to the thought process so brilliantly voiced by Shirley MacLaine's character in "Steel Magnolias", in which she says something to the effect of, "If you can't say something nice, then come sit next to me," some complainers just need to shut up.

I have decided that there are two types of complainers in this world. 1.) Your run-of-the-mill, very relatable, "I'm-totally-feelin'-ya-and-get-where you're-coming-from" kind of complainer, and 2.) The Bragger Complainer. (see the Mercedes-Premium-Gas Complainer above.)

Here are the types of complaints I'm okay with, that usually come from the first type of complainer I described:
  • "My kid kept me up all night with illness/nightmares/explosive diarrhea. I'm so tired."
  • "My husband has to travel this whole week for work and it sucks. I guess we're eating chicken nuggets and hot dogs all week, because I can't muster the energy to cook anything from scratch."
  • "If I have to drive my kids to one more activity, and sit there and entertain the other kids for an hour, I might poke out my own eyeballs."
  • "Driving in snowy weather rattles me. I wish I was in Florida."
  • "My car smells like poo. Something has to be stuck under one of the seats. Again. How many times do I have to tell these kids not to eat in the car?"
Now here are the types of complaints that come from the Bragger Complainer. The Bragger Complainer is not really complaining. They are just finding another way to brag, and they are trying to be relatable, but failing miserably.
  • "I am so annoyed that I gave my gardener and housekeeper the week off. I could really use them right about now. My rare rose plant needs a good pruning, and I am soooo craving one of my housekeeper's famous gourmet omelettes that that she makes with those truffles that I have flown in from France every Tuesday morning."
  • "I was taking a bath in my loose diamond collection this morning, and I am sure that a 12-carat one got stuck in my butt crack. Dang it hurts. I hope my private doctor will make a house call this early in the day."
  • "Oh man! I snagged my panty hose again with this 7-carat Tiffany diamond tennis bracelet that my husband just happened to give to me out of the blue the other day. He dropped it off at the salon while I was getting my spa treatments, and when I came out of the massage room after my 2-hour massage with Vlad, the male supermodel/part-time masseuse, the little blue box was just sitting there waiting for me. But I was sooo annoyed, because I was hoping for 10-carats. Seven-carat tennis bracelets are sooo 2009."
  • "My Ferrari smells like rare Russian Beluga caviar. I was driving home from the market the other day and spilled a whole jar of the stuff on the floor. Now I have to have the Ferrari detailed and they gave me this 700-series Beemer to tool around in in its stead. I guess I don't mind slumming around town in it for a few hours."
  • "I was polishing off my Emmy the other day, and the wings on the damn thing poked a hole right through my cashmere sweater. It's a good thing that my Oscar has a much smoother round head."
Like I said, the Bragger Complainer is not a complainer. Beware. They are just insecure braggarts and nobody wants to be friends with them, especially me. We all have nice stuff. We just don't need to tell everyone about it to try and put people in their place. Our mamas didn't raise us that way. And no, we're not jealous of you. We just don't want to hear about your problems that aren't really problems.

Enough of my tangent.

So where was I? Oh yeah. Complainers.

I am a complainer, and proud of it. However, I try not to abuse my right to complain, because people get sick of hearing it. It also helps if you temper your complaints with a little bit of humor, so people don't even know you're complaining. Almost.

And here's the part in this blog entry where I am going to complain. And yes, once again, it involves the toilet and the bathroom. Because that's what we're obsessed with in this house. Not by choice, of course. It's just how it is. If you are tired of reading about my family and their bathroom habits, or lack thereof, then stop reading HERE. If not, then by all means, keep reading.

But you have been warned.

Twice this week I stepped in pee. TWICE. I have the yellow socks to prove it. Bill stepped in pee once this week. ONCE. One plus two equals three. That's THREE times we have unwittingly discovered pee on the bathroom floor. Check that. Actually the bottom of our socks discovered the pee for us.

The boys share a bathroom, so I am not exactly sure who the floor-peeing-bandit is, but I know it's one of the boys. The skills that I have gleaned from years of watching CSI and the Mentalist have deduced that 1.) it is not Annabel or I, because neither of us uses that bathroom, and even if we did, our lady parts make it almost impossible to get the pee anywhere but the bowl, and 2.) it is not my husband, because he doesn't use that bathroom either, and even if he did, he has learned in his 35 years on this planet how to...um...how do I put this politely?...AIM. (There is no dirty-minded innuendo intended there. I am talking about going to the bathroom, people.)

Let's review. It is not me, Bill, or Annabel that is consistently peeing on the bathroom floor. So that leaves Charlie, Henry, and George. Oh, and of course, there is my fifth child, Not Me. Immediately, Not Me is the first person blamed in these situations. Poor guy. Or girl. I am not exactly sure what Not Me looks like, because I have never met him/her. I don't even remember giving birth to him/her. But dang, that Not Me is quite the troublemaker around this house. If I ever get my hands on that piece of AIR, then he/she is soooo going to the naughty step.

Honestly, I don't care who is peeing on the floor. I just want it to stop. Now. I know I sound like a broken record, because I have written about this topic in the past, but it's a big bowl! A big, white, bowl that is a contrast to the ceramic tile on the floor! I do not have the energy or the time to clean that bathroom floor daily. I gave that bathroom a good scrub-down this weekend, thinking it would be good for at least a week, and it was good for about 12 hours. IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK TO KEEP IT CLEAN AND PEE-FREE FOR AT LEAST A DAY? 24 HOURS? ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED FORTY MINUTES? EIGHTY SIX THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED SECONDS?

Apparently my expectations are way too high. It is time to set the bar lower, then I won't be disappointed when things don't go my way.

It feels good to get that off my chest. Yes, I know that in the grand scheme and order of the problems of the world, it ranks right up there with a zit on the forehead. That's how minor it is. Yes, I know how lucky I am to have my children. Yes, I know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, and running water, and toilets that work. Yes, I know how lucky I am that I don't have to share a bathroom with three little boys, because then my pee-on-the-floor encounter percentage rate would be much higher.

But is it too much to ask to PLEASE put your piss in the bowl?

If it is, then I reserve my right to complain about it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A love letter to my husband. Kind of.

Dear Bill,

I was cleaning the bathrooms on Saturday, and I came across THIS. Again.



So I did what any normal person would do, and I grabbed the camera and took a picture of it. You know, like normal folk. Normal folk who do a photo session with their toilet paper holder, and think, "I am SO blogging about this again."

Didn't we have this conversation a few months ago? In case you forgot, click here Schmoops.

At the time that I noticed the aforementioned situation, I was in full bathroom-cleaning mode, scrubbing sinks and toilets, wearing my iPod and blasting a little Flo Rida through my headphones. Annoyed at the toilet paper situation, and inspired by Flo's rapping, this shawty was straight-up gonna pop a cap, i.e. nag you, and be all, "REALLY? IT'S THAT HARD TO JUST PUT THE TOILET PAPER ON THE HOLDER THAT'S DESIGNED FOR THAT EXACT PURPOSE? COME ON NOW. THAT'S ALL THAT THINGY DOES. IT HOLDS THE TOILET PAPER ROLL. 'CEPT FOR SOME ODD REASON, IT'S HIGHLY UNDER-UTILIZED IN THIS HERE BATHROOM OF OURS."

But then again, that would that never happen because I'm soooo not the nagging type. Right? RIGHT? It's not like I just shouted at you in all CAPS or anything, or got all passive-aggressive on you in my blog.

Hold on a sec. I have to firmly remove my tongue from my cheek.

Okay. Much better now.

Anyway, as I stood there with Flo Rida in my ears, and a camera in my hand, about to take a picture of a roll of toilet paper perched atop our toilet paper holder, I gained a little thing that I like to call Perspective. Therefore, I am letting you win this battle.

Aren't you so grateful that you married such a phenomenal giver?

No really. This one is all yours. I am done nagging you about this. Done. I'm saying, "Uncle". You win. I lose. Do you want to know the reason for my gracious acquiescence on this matter? Because this new-fangled Perspective thing has allowed me to see that this is not your fault. According to an unscientific poll that I took among a few of my girlfriends, I know that I am not alone in having a husband who has this oh-so-minor, but slightly annoying quirk. And that's all it is. A quirk. A quirk for which I am not blaming you; rather, I am choosing to blame your species. It's just one of those things that men do. It's kind of like how men can fart and burp on demand. Yep, it's just like that, but fortunately not so smelly.

Perhaps when Darwin was figuring out evolution, and cracking the code that we all evolved from apes, but instead of ape-hands we got these really cool opposable thumbs on our hands, he should have been all, "Now what to do about men and their lack of toilet paper skills?" Because the thumbs. That's what they do. They're great for the spring-loaded action on that contraption. They're opposable and they grip and push and twist. The thumbs. The opposable ones.

But I digress.

With my friend Perspective firmly in place, here's the thing that came to mind about your hands. Yes, they totally suck at getting the toilet paper on the holder. But those same hands are the ones that gently bandage up a wound on one of our children. They are the same hands that rub the back of one of our crying children. The same hands that work so hard every day at a job that enables us to have this wonderful life. The same hands that wrap around my back in a hug to let me know that whatever I am stressed about is going to be all right. The same hands that bathe our children. The same hands that help a frustrated son with his homework. The same hands that pat me on the back with a, "You're a great mom, Clare," when I'm feeling like I'm doing it all wrong. The same hands that warm up a sippy cup of milk. The same hands that throw a baseball or bounce a basketball with our kids. The same hands that so fervently try to put a ponytail in our daughter's hair, fail, and try again. The same hands that make waffles on Saturday mornings. The same hands that drive us on long family car trips, even though I'm perfectly capable of doing my portion of the driving, but you don't ask me to, because you know I hate driving on long trips. The same hands that clean up a fair share of vomit and poop around here. The same hands that detect a fever. The same hands that show your children what it is like to be a real man and take care of your family in the most loving, caring, demonstrative way possible.

The same hands.

And I love those hands, because they belong to a guy who is the most fun that I have ever met in a person. Regardless of your ability to perfectly thread a roll of toilet paper.

So before my readers are all, "Get a room, Clare and Bill," (because I fear that I have just become one of THOSE people who has crossed the line into cyber-PDA) I will just say that I am done nagging you on this topic, and for that you can thank my good buddy Perspective. He has your back.

And so do I.

Smooches,

Clare

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why I should just shut my mouth sometimes. And lie.

George is an old soul.

When he was born and we announced that his name would be George, more than a few people joked that George is an "old man's name". Ironically, we didn't realize at the time how well his name would befit him, for we now know that he has a gentle soul that is sometimes wise beyond his 5 years.

George has your back. He likes you before he doesn't like you. He believes that you spit sunshine and rainbows. He is your biggest defender. He hurts when you hurt. He is the champion of the underdog.

This is not to say that he is a perfect child. Like his brothers, he is no stranger to the time-out stair. However, I do worry that when he is older, my George, with his trusting, sunshiney nature, will be chewed up and spit back out by the cold, harsh world. So how do you toughen up a child who always looks at the bright side?

You don't.

Which leads me to the most depressing conversation on the drive to school in the history of...well...EVER.

Out of the blue, George asked me, "What happens when you get old, Mom?"

I know what he's getting at. Death. Why so deep today, George? Let's talk about the cement mixer that just barreled on past our car.

"Well, when you get old, your hair turns gray and your skin gets wrinkly. And....you get older," I responded, hoping that the answer would satisfy him, but I sensed somehow that it wouldn't.

"Yeah, but what happens after that? When you get old old?"

Crap. I hate talking about death. I hate talking about death as much as I hate thinking about death. He already knows the answer to this. Why this topic? Why now?

"Um...well....when you get really, really, really, really old, then you...um...well...you...die."

I regretted the word the moment it left my lips.

Time for a subject change. "Do you want to watch 'the Bee Movie', George?"

Silence.

Quiet sobs wracked his 5-year old body. George pulled the hood of his red puffy coat over his head, and zipped up the front tighter to cover his mouth.

"George? What's wrong sweetie?" I asked, knowing full well what was wrong. My big mouth did this.

Paging Debbie Downer.

Tears flowed down his chubby, red cheeks, until he finally spoke through his sobs. "I...just...can't...live...without...my...mom...and...daaaaaaddd!!!! When you are dead, you are dead foreverrrrrr!!!" he wailed.

Nice, Clare. Niiiice. Way to inject some realism into the drive to school. Couldn't you just have given him a hearts and flowers answer? It's called avoidance. Try it some time.

"Sweetie, Daddy and I aren't going to die!"

"But you're going to someday, and then I will have to live without you!"

"George, when Dad and I die, we'll be old, and you'll be old too!" I said, clearly scrambling for words to make this better.

What???

He's 5! Please make this topic go away. Anyone know a good fart joke? Potty talk? Something? How did we get from, "Wow! Look at the garbage truck!" to "Everybody dies, and life is too short."

I want to vomit.

"Yes, everybody dies, but we're not going to die for a REEEEAALLLYYYY long time! You don't have to live without us. It's a REAAAAALLLLYYY LONG time from now! And then we're going to all live together in heaven!"

Stupid answer. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Somebody make the verbal diarrhea stop. They should make Imodium for the mouth. Oh wait. They do. It's called, SHUT THE HELL UP AND STOP TALKING, CLARE.

Completely unconvinced after my less-than-stellar response, George resumed his crying.

Nausea crept into my stomach. This is why I don't do the death talk. This is why I need Bill here. This is why I should have just skated around the truth and said, "When people get old, they just get really old and gray and wrinkly. And they ride around on unicorns when their legs stop working." Period. End of Sentence.

Bill grew up living above the funeral home that his family owned. He was the son of a mortician. For as long as he could remember, he was surrounded by death. As a small child, he would sit on a stool in the embalming room with his dad as his father prepared bodies for their final rest. Just like that. Death is a part of life, and his family's life was all about death.

Yet I can't even fudge my way through a simple question about life and death and getting old.

Should we be so lucky to make it to a ripe old age.

I offered up a silent prayer in my head. "Please, Dear God, don't make me a liar to my son. Please let Bill and I live until we are old and gray and wrinkly."

George was inconsolable, and I caused it. It was all my fault.

Finally George decided, "Mom, when it's my turn to die I'm just not going to close my eyes. I'm going to keep them open, and then I'll never die."

"Okay, George. Sounds good."

That'll be enough of that. Next topic.

"Mom?"

No more heavy questions. Please. Have you not picked up, in all of your infinite 5-year old wisdom, that I suck at this line of questioning?

George continued, "Instead of 'Bee Movie', can we watch 'Madagascar 2'?"

Thank you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I can't come to the phone right now. Oprah made me do it.

I was all set to write a funny blog entry today about a hilarious discovery I made this weekend while organizing, but then I had to watch Oprah yesterday.

Damn, Opes. I hate it when you make me think too much. You're supposed to be light-hearted and funny and talk about cheating spouses and how we're all wearing the wrong bra size, and how the right bra will change our life. You're supposed to give away free cars and give makeovers to frumps. You're supposed to kiss celebrity ass and shout, "JOHN TRA-VOL-TA!" or "WILL SA-MI-ITH!" or "CHRIS RO-OCK!" I guess you're also allowed to occasionally make me cry when you feature stories about inspirational people or two-legged dogs.

But come on, now. I don't like it when you make me think too hard and feel guilty at 4:00 in the afternoon. The only thing I should feel guilty about at 4:00 in the afternoon is when I decide that it's a chicken-nuggets-and-macaroni-and-cheese-for-dinner kind of day.

However, the Mighty Oprah hath spoken, and I, usually a skeptic on all decrees of the Mighty Oprah, heeded her call.

I don't blame you for being an Oprah skeptic. I get it. But hear me out on this one.

Today's show was about texting and talking on the phone while driving. I started out the show all, "Whatevs, Ope. Tell me something I don't know. Texting while driving is dangerous. Blah, blah, blah." I have told you all my feelings about texting while driving. I don't do it because, a.) it's dangerous, and b.) I don't have the patience to text, when I could just call and talk to my potential textee.

So I was riding way up high on my high horse, all Miss Perfect, all She's Not Talking to Me, all I Can't Believe Some People Are So Stupid and I'm So Glad Oprah is Calling Them Out, and then Ope knocked me down a peg.

I was the parade, and Oprah was my rain.

Because then she started throwing out statistics and telling stories about people who had either died or killed someone else while talking on their cell phone while driving, and then I was all, "Oops. Gotta go pack my bags, because Oprah's taking me on an all-expenses paid guilt trip, and it's not to some place exotic and fun."

With the best of intentions, I have promised myself many times that I will stop talking on the cell phone while driving. Not too long ago, I was driving all of my kids home from school, and I was distracted for a moment while talking to my sister about a topic that I have no memory of now because it was that insignificant, and I almost rear-ended the car in front of me. The incident scared me enough that I swore off talking on my phone while driving. It lasted three whole days. Most recently, I told you about the time when Charlie yelled at me when I answered my phone as we were driving down a snowy, treacherous road. Once again, I swore off the phone in the car. But true to form, my pledge lasted about a day and a half.

It's so easy for Oprah to tell us not to talk on our phones while driving, because does she ever drive anywhere? She can call Gayle and gossip any old time she wants to, because the chauffeur is the one making the right turns and merging onto the freeway for her. She does not have to suffer the sheer boredom of driving down the same road every single day, passing the same stores, waiting for the same lights to change from red to green.

So clearly, it wasn't she that convinced me that I should give up my cell phone addiction. (And believe you me, I am addicted to talking on the phone in the car. Full-on, hardcore, gotta take a hit off my phone addicted.) It was a crying mother who convinced me. A crying mother whose daughter died while riding her bike, steps from her front door, because some lady was too busy having a convo on her cell phone while operating her 5,000 pound SUV to notice the little girl.

I know you don't come to this blog for a lecture. I know you come here for laughs and to find a place free of judgment from parenting mistakes we all make. Feeding the kids cereal for dinner tonight? Me too. Yelled at your little angels a bit too loudly today? Been there, done that. Nagged your husband to change the toilet paper roll? Um...yeah.

My intent is not to lecture. I'm just getting my own guilt off my chest. I have realized that I am a hypocrite, and it doesn't feel good.

Why do I talk on my phone almost every time I get in my car? Because I'm bored. Bored out of my EVER-LOVING mind. Bored enough to scream if I don't get at least 10 minutes of adult conversation. Bored of listening to the movie "Cars" playing on the DVD player. Just plain bored.

Do you ever have those nights when you lie in bed, and everyone else is sleeping, and the house is quiet, and you replay your day in your mind, and you don't like what you see in your head? Your guilt overwhelms you. You yelled too much. Or you let your kids watch too much TV. Or you fed them crap because you were just too tired to cook that organic meal from scratch. You lie there in your bed and you think about how fast your babies are growing up, and you wonder if you are being the best mom you can be.

No? Just me? Nobody else worries about these things?

Well then, let me tell you how it feels. It feels like crap. Sure, I have plenty of days when I replay my day, and I like what I see. But sometimes the crappy days outweigh the good ones in my mind, and Bill tells me I overanalyze way too much.

Well duh.

Here's the part where I realized that I am a hypocrite. I researched my kids' car seats to find the best ones. I wouldn't dream of letting them ride in a car unbuckled. I feed them well most of the time. I don't let them watch violent movies. I know who all their friends are. Yet, despite all this, I still do something almost every time that I get in the car with them, that puts myself and them at 4 times the risk of being in an accident, perhaps a fatal one. FOUR TIMES.

I am lying to myself when I say that talking on my cell phone doesn't distract me when I'm driving. As if there are not enough distractions driving four kids around town on a daily basis, I have to add another thing to the list?

I would hate myself for exactly forever plus one day if I hurt or killed someone else while talking on the phone and driving.

I would hate myself for exactly forever plus TWO days if I hurt or killed one of my kids while talking on the phone and driving.

You convinced me Ope. I'm kicking the habit.

I asked myself how this time would be any different, and I have decided that the only way I could kick this habit is to get my kids involved. So I got out a piece of paper and wrote,

"I, Mommy, promise to not talk on my cell phone or text on my cell phone while driving a car. I promise to only use it in the car as a passenger, or when the car is stopped or parked. Signed, Mommy, 1/18/10"

After reading this out loud, I signed my name to the paper, right in front of my family at the dinner table last night. Then I tacked it to the bulletin board in our office, for all to see. My boys were extra giddy when I told them that they have free reign to "bust me" if I cheated. And I sincerely hope they don't have to.

I also went to the Oprah website and signed the petition, just so I could further cement it in my stubborn mind. Check it out here.

I'm trying here. I'm just trying my best and I fall short of perfect every single day, which is a tough thing for me to admit.

So I am telling Therese, Bridget, Colette, Veronica, Bern, Amy, Jan, Maureen, and all my other peeps that I like hash it out with on a daily basis, that I still love our chats, but it's time for me to shut my yap a little bit.

I'm just trying to do right by my kids.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Every little bit helps, no matter how small.

As much as I would love to regale you with tales of my home life, specifically the moment today when one of my sons walked into our pantry, farted, closed the door, and "trapped the fart inside", thus tainting all of our non-perishables with a permanent level of gaseous toxicity, I feel that I must refrain from doing so. At least for today.

And let me tell you all, that I would love nothing more than to complain about that, because it has been two hours, and I still cannot get the fart smell out of my pantry.

But somehow, my inanity just doesn't seem appropriate right now.

There is much suffering in the world today, and my thoughts are with the people of Haiti. I am praying and thinking of the families searching fervently for loved ones. The thought of parents scouring the rubble for their children under collapsed schoolhouses and buildings breaks my heart.

Of course you may have heard of ways you can help, but here are two amazing organizations that deserve attention for the wonderful humanitarian relief work they do all over the world, and especially now in Haiti.

Please go to the websites of the American Red Cross and Catholic Relief Services to find information on how to help relief efforts.

The world is so huge, and yet so small. We feel so insignificant. We feel like our little donation won't make a difference.

But every little bit helps.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Listen up, young single ladies, and listen up good.

Listen up single ladies in your twenties.

Listen up and take notes.

I know your life is exciting and all party-party, but I am here to tell you that the young, single life may seem titillating and electrifying now, but just wait until you are thirtysomething, married, living in the suburbs and have popped out a few kids. Because let me tell you what I did last week, on one afternoon, (probably around the same time that you were texting your peeps to decide where you were going to meet for Happy Hour) that left me all a-tingle.

I bought a brand-new vacuum cleaner.

Oh yeah.

What? That's not exciting, you say? Did you hear the part where I said it is brand-new? Yes, it is brand-new, black, shiny, and sleek. Kind of like those new Manolo Blahnik black patent leather pumps that you just blew a week's salary on. And hold onto your Cosmos, twentysomethings, because get this. It is bagless. BAG. LESS. As in, there is no messy bag to take out, just a clear plastic canister.

Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word, "exciting", because "thrilling" captures the essence of this day more appropriately. Yes, the thrills never stop at our house. Nothing but the best for us.

I danced and sang as I vacuumed and glided across the floor, kind of like you do at the clubs. "Puh-puh-puh-Poker Face, puh-puh Poker Face..." I know this song by Lady Gaga sounds all cool when it's thumping on the sound system at the club, but let me tell you, it sounds even better blasting from my iPod in the kitchen, accompanied by the sound of stray Legos being sucked up the vacuum. Clunk...Poker Face...clunk.

But if that doesn't totally get your blood flowing as it does for me, get a load of my next major purchase: The Bissell Pro Heat 2X Steam Cleaner.

I know! Manolo, who? Jimmy Choo, what? Right?

See. I knew that would pique your interest a bit. So you know how you and your girls borrow each other's clothing and purses now? Well, someday if you are lucky, you and your girls will borrow each other's steam cleaners. Because that is exactly what I did, right before Christmas.

Several months ago, I hired a local carpet cleaning company to clean all the carpet and upholstery at Casa de Four Kids Live Here. After all the Scotchguarding treatments, (like I said, only the BEST for us) the total cost came to $550.00. Gulp.

Do you know how many Jimmy Choos you can buy for $550.00?

Actually, that's a trick question, because you can buy like ONE pair of Jimmy Choos for that price. And really, at your age, that's just irresponsible spending. Save it for a rainy day, ladies!

Once you are a mom, you will think, "Do you know how far that $550 will go at that sale at Gap Kids? The answer: much farther than one pair of shoes. Or, if you are an even savvier mom shopper, you will get twice as much at Old Navy or Kohl's. And we are talking BAGS of clothing and goodies here, ladies. BAGS. Yeah, the bags might not be sleek cardboard ones that have those pretty rope-like handles that fit over your shoulders, a la the ones at Saks, because our shopping bags are plastic and crinkly, but you will have quite a bit of loot to show for it. Quite a bit.

Back to carpet cleaning.

After reluctantly paying $550 for carpet-cleaning, and realizing that with four kids, I will need my carpets cleaned every 3 months or so, I noticed that my friend Becky had a steam cleaner, and I asked to borrow it to see if they lived up to the hype.

Moment of silence.

Sorry. I was just speechless there for a minute. Recalling the exact moment that the Bissell ProHeat 2X came into my life does that to me.

I cleaned EVERY inch of carpet in this house and most of the upholstery with that mother. I texted Bill all giddy-like with proclamations such as, "I am in love, and his name is Bissell."

Coincidentally, or maybe not, both my new vacuum cleaner and the steam cleaner are named Bissell. So while you have a thing for those bad boys named "Steve" or "Mark", I have a thing for a guy named Bissell. And he's so bad he's good. He does dirty things around here like suck up dirt.

Ladies, ladies, ladies. I know you are all giddy about checking out the biceps of that hot guy you are into, but that has NOTHING on watching dirty water fill up into a canister in your steam cleaner. You will think, "I CANNOT believe that all that dirt was in my floors! And I just sucked it up all by myself! With a steam cleaner! And once I buy my own, I can do it any old time I want to!"

So yeah. It will be $279.99 well spent. Minus a coupon for extra savings. AND? Maybe a rebate too, if I get really lucky.

Jealous, much?

Sorry, ladies. All this glamour is mine alone.

Friday, January 8, 2010

You get what you get and you don't have a fit.

On June 9, 2006, I found out that I was pregnant with my 4th child.

As with my other three pregnancies, it was a total surprise, but a very welcome one.

I had three little boys at the time that I adored, and still do. Naturally, when people found out I was pregnant AGAIN, they would offer congratulations, and then they would say the statement that I abhorred with ever fiber of my being. "OOH! I hope you get your girl this time!" Outwardly, I would always smile politely and nod, but internally I would groan and roll my eyes.

I know that people meant well, but I detested when they would say this to me. In fact, after I had two boys, and I found out that my third pregnancy was another boy, (George) people would smile, tilt their head, pity me and say something like, "Awww...well you're gonna have your hands full with all those boys!" or "Oh! You gotta keep trying for that girl!"

As if.

As if I, or Bill, or anyone could control these things. As if I could "try" for a girl. As if I just had to have a girl. As if my life would be incomplete without one. As if I needed anyone's pity. Pregnancy is the ultimate crapshoot, and as they say in preschool, "You get what you get and you don't have a fit."

I just assumed all along that my 4th baby would be another boy, and I was perfectly happy with that. Sure I would have loved to have a daughter, but I was okay with the thought of another son too. The dynamic of four boys around here would be loud and crazy and more of the same, but wonderfully fun. Moms of boys do not want your pity. Save it for someone else. In other words, thank you, but SHUT IT. Boys are cool.

Bill and I thought about naming this fourth baby of ours Harold or Fred. Seriously. Sure we entertained some girl names, but I decided that that would be futile since this baby wasn't going to be a girl. I had heard a statistic once that if your first two children are the same sex, then the chances of you having a child of a different gender are slim to none. But don't quote me on that. Besides, I am the second-oldest of SIX girls and ZERO POINT ZERO boys, so see the trend here? This fourth baby of mine was a boy. I was sure of it.

We got an ultrasound on October 4, 2006. (Don't ask me why I remember all these dates. They are really irrevelant. I'm just trying to show off my steel-trap memory for totally insignificant dates. Sometimes I'll mess with Bill's head and be all, "Remember what today is?" when it's really just the 14th anniversary of the first time we shared a Papa John's pizza together. What? You don't celebrate that day? Just me?) We brought the boys with us to the ultrasound, who basically cheered, "Boy! Boy! Boy!" the whole time. As the ultrasound technician squirted the cool gel on my belly and rolled the wand over my stomach, he checked out all the vitals. Then came the exciting moment that we were all waiting for: our confirmation that this baby was a boy. After all, I had my eye on the cutest blue and green plaid crib set from PBKids and I was all set to order it. I just needed the all-clear signal.

"Do you want to know the sex of the baby?" the technician asked.

(UM, HELLS YEAH.) "Yes! We definitely do!" I responded, fervently hoping this baby was opening his legs and cooperating.

"Okay, it's a girl!" the technician said confidently.

Whaaaa....???

Let me tell you, if I wasn't already lying down, my knees would have buckled. To say I was stunned was an understatement. A girl? Are you sure there was no stem on that apple? Didn't you get the memo Mr. Ultrasound Technician? Bill and I don't make girls. We only make boys. With boy parts. Boy junk if you will. Not girls. And if you're fooling me with this information someone is going to get hurt.

The boys immediately started whining and saying things like, "OH MAN! A SISTER! WE DON'T WANT A SISTER!"

I know. My boys' excitement over the impending arrival of their sister is truly heartwarming, isn't it?

As the news sank in to my stunned brain, I looked at Bill, who was still all, "Whaaa....whooo....where....whaaa....GIRL....whaaa....???" and I started crying. Although I didn't need a girl, although I didn't have to have a girl, although I was perfectly content with being the mother of boys, HOLY HOT DAYUM, I was having a GIRL!

A girl.

And although I love to recount the moment when my boys found out that their brother would instead be a sister, I can proudly say that they no longer wish for her to be a boy. In fact, they have asked me a few times over the past three years if I am ever going to have another girl, "Because girls are a lot more fun," than they originally thought.

Um. Duh. Girls rule.

So what is my point to this?

My point to this entry is this. Boys are fun to raise and live with, but shopping for their clothing and accessories is just...eh. Especially when they are older, the only thing boys want to wear is track pants and a short-sleeved t-shirt EVERY day of their lives. But wait! If you are lucky, they might let you buy them a new pack of white socks every so often. But you better buy the right ones, because HOLY HECK, if you buy the wrong socks, they will be scrumply or itchy or bunchy and then it's all over. The wrong socks can make or break a morning.

So check this out you guys. Here it is, a snowy day, and all of 19 degrees outside, and I'm dying to show you what I bought my Annabel the other day at the store.

Here it is.



Yes, it is a pink bathing suit with a tutu around the middle. A FREAKIN' TUTU.

Insert high-pitched girly squeal here.

Annabel does not need this bathing for oh...say...about 5 more months. But I couldn't resist. Because it's pink! And it's a tutu! That she can swim in!

And here's the best part. I got it at Target for a mere $9.99. Once again, Tar-jhay is where it's at, people.

Can you even get over this cuteness?

Of course, Annabel loves this bathing suit, because she loves pink. And she probably loves pink because I've shoved this color and all variations of it down her little throat since the moment she donned her very first outfit.

Because it's just so purty.

But even though Annabel loves dresses and Disney Princesses and baby dolls, she is tough and can hang with boys like the best of them. She is not a princess. I literally cringe when people call their daughters "princesses". We are not the royal family, and I am not raising a spoiled diva who will grow up thinking she is a monarch or the heir to this family's throne.

The only thrones in this house and are white and porcelain, and you can find one of them down the hall and to the right.

Girls. Boys. Whatever you have, enjoy the adventure.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Welcome 2010. So far, you rock.

Hey there blog. 'Member me?

All the Christmas hoo-ha is over and life has returned to "normal".

My family is detoxing after a steady, 2-week diet of party meatballs, (They're small! They're covered in sauce! They're party meatballs!) random bites of chocolate candies, (bites, because the rest of the piece goes uneaten after discovering the chewy center contains coconut or orange sherbet or some other crap-ola flavor) pistachio nuts, cookies and artichoke dip. Mmmm. Artichoke dip. There's spinach in it, so I have declared that it counts for a serving of vegetables.

But here it is, January 4, 2010, and this year has already started out with a big, fat bang. Here are some exciting things that have already made 2010 rock my world.

1.) I actually stayed up until midnight on New Year's Eve. It was a Christmas miracle. A Christmas miracle that happened on New Year's Eve. Bill and I watched "the Hangover" for the first time, and we were underwhelmed by the general UNfunniness of it all. Sure, I chuckled a few times, but it did not crack me up as much as hyped. Despite this fact, however, I still could not peel my eyes away from it when my sister called at about 11:30 p.m. to inform me that J-Lo was wearing some sort of flesh-colored costume on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Um, no thanks. I have no interest in seeing J-Lo in all her almost-naked badunkadunk glory. I didn't even see the countdown and the ball drop. Did Seacrest say, "Seacrest, out."? I don't know because I was too busy watching three, idiot man-boys running around Vegas tranquilizing Mike Tyson's tiger and wrecking a $4,000 hotel room.

2.) Annabel peed on me today. Not a little bit, but a whole bladder full of the stuff. She cozied up and fell asleep on me this afternoon while we were chilling with "Olivia" on Nick Jr., and a few minutes later my lap felt very warm. But I didn't move her for about 20 minutes because I was enjoying the rare snuggle time with her so much that I just sat there with her curled up on my lap full of pee. And I loved every minute of it. Not the pee. The snuggle time.

3.) Yesterday I witnessed a truly shocking form of parenting, and it made me go Hmmmmm. But not totally in a bad way.

Let me explain.

Charlie and I went to a local indoor play place that also sells huge wooden outdoor playsets. It is full of slides and forts and basketball hoops. For a price, this store/warehouse also lets people bring their children there to play on the sets they sell. Charlie and I were there to price out basketball hoops that Bill and I are thinking about installing on our driveway. We were waiting in line behind a family with three young children: two boys and a girl. The mom was purchasing a yearlong membership to play at this place, and the two older children ran off to play on the slides and tire swings. The dad was watching the three-ish-year old boy, and helping him up and down the slides. This family was there all of five minutes, and as the mom was still checking them in at the register, the dad walked over to her holding their crying boy, and cupping the boy's chin in his hand. He said to the mom ever so calmly, "We have to go to the ER now. He split open his chin and he needs stitches." Then the mom replied, "Oh, darnit. Okay. Round up the kids." Seriously, just like that. There was no spazzing, no freaking out at the sight of the blood gushing down their child's chin, no questioning if he needed stitches. It was all so Zen that the whole thing skeeved me out a little bit. In fact, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own two peepers. And THEN, the mom tells the other two kids to "Come along now, because 'Junior' has split his chin open," (which is gushing blood profusely at this point) and the kids are all, "Sure, Mom." Charlie and I just looked at each other like, "Huh? What just happened here?"

Let's recap.

Three kids. Mom is paying for membership. Dad takes 3-ish-year old boy to play on the slide. Boy promptly splits chin wide open. Blood is gushing. Dad is all, "Gee willikers" about it and calmly decides that a trip to the ER is in order. He tells Mom, who is all, "Dangit, sweet niblets" about it, and calmly rounds up other two kids who are all, "Aww shucks, but no problemo, Mommio." Charlie and I are all, "Whatchu talkin' about Willis?" about the scene we have just witnessed, especially Charlie, because he has learned in his 9 years on this planet that sliced open, exposed skin + gushing blood + possibility of the ER = panicky Mommy.

I understand that there has to be one calm member of a parenting duo, and TAG! I am not it. Clearly, this dad was the calm one, but the mom, too? How does that work? Who does the spazzing out in their house? Who does the second-guessing of parental decisions? They were so confident about the situation. They just said, "Woops. Definitely gotta take Junior to the ER," with the same conviction that one would say, "The sky is blue today." or "That hummus makes me gassy." The wife didn't say, "Are you sure?" about 8,012 times like yours truly does. They were all, "And that is that," about it, and I was equal parts in awe of them, jealous of their composure, and slightly skeeved out by them.

But then I decided that our way works for us, and I'll stick with it. I proudly embrace my inner spazz.

4.) I have learned that people (including moi) in my beloved midwest are still shocked and have the nerve to complain when it's cold in January, (IT'S JANUARY, PEOPLE. IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE COLD HERE.) and they still don't know how to drive in snow. Therefore, I had a super-duper, fantastically awesome 1 hour and 5 minute drive to school this morning, and a sa-weet, slammin' 1 hour and 10 minute drive home from school at the end of the day.

5.) I have been banned from using my cellphone while driving. My children are the ones who banned me. This morning as we were driving to school in the slushy, slippery, icy muck, my cellphone rang. It was Bill, calling to check on how I was doing on the roads. Charlie screamed, "STOP! DON'T ANSWER IT!" then proceeded to lecture me on the dangers of talking on the phone while driving. I promptly hung up on Bill and listened to Charlie say, and I quote, "Mom, over 6,000 people have died talking on their cellphones while driving, and over 7,000 people have died texting while driving." Yes sir. Whatever you say, sir. I'm not sure where he got the statistics, but my sweet little punk schooled me. Hardcore. And I decided that I should set a good example, because in less than 7 years that same sweet little punk will be driving. A car. On the road. In various weather conditions. And that scares the ever-living crap out of me, especially in the age of cellphones and texting. Personally, I don't have the problem of texting while driving, because I barely have the patience and motor skills to text while standing. But dang, you guys. When am I going to get my daily helping of inane chatter with one of my sisters or besties? Did you know that I spend about 3 hours of combined time in my car every day? But a good role model I will try to be. Albeit reluctantly. I don't think this resolution is going to last.

It's shaping up to be a great year. And I'm not even being sarcastic when I say that. I usually hate January, but I have vowed to be more sunshine and rainbows about it. I shall love it even through the cold, and the dark, and the dreariness. Because I'm happy.

Welcome 2010. So far, you're kinda sorta awesome.