Fecal Friday: just another crappy day

I know this is a bit of a cheat, but I really don’t want to spin on actual poop today. It was just an ordinary but shitty – and very long – day in the life of a middle aged, financially stable, jobless mom in America.

12:00 am. Get up to pee. Blame the BP meds.

1:00 am. Get up to pee. Blame the sparkling lemonade and gin.

3:00 am. Get up to pee. By now I’m shuffling like Jack Nicholson at the end of Cuckoo’s Nest. Blame everything.

5:30 am. Respond to Nick’s plea to snuggle by letting him nestle his little sweet head in my right armpit and throw the rest of his body across me.

5:45 am. Remove my now-asleep arm from under Nick and try to put the rest of me back to sleep.

6:30 am. Respond to Jesse’s plea to snuggle. She takes the left armpit, Nick takes the right again. I’m now in a crucifixion posture. They each throw arms and legs across me, and then the dog lies down on my crotch. I stare at the ceiling.

7:15 am. Wake from a light doze and roll out of bed, while Nick relentlessly goes about the business of trying to get Jesse and me to play with him. Get dressed and try to stop drooling so I can deal with morning time.

8:00 am. Jesse’s out the door with Anthony for her twice-a-month chiropractor visit. I have to holler goodbye from upstairs because Nick is pooping, and he’ll only do that if ma or pa is reading him a book. Wipe his ass, get him dressed.

8:15. Nick and I head to Whole Foods for dinner party shopping. Friends are coming over Saturday night. At W.F. Nick has a tantrum about which type of yogurt tube he wants. I won’t get him the box with the cow picture because the other brand, which tastes exactly the same to Nick’s delicate palate, is on sale. Bad, cheap mommy. I make it up to him by letting him eat half a chocolate bar, or at least that’s what he manages to put down before I notice and take it away. The sugar buzz hits him in seconds, like a needle in a vein. Eventually I give him my iPhone to shut him up but he locks the phone somehow. Never mind. Nick keeps talking and yelling.

10:15. Home. Put away groceries, clean up the living room, pack Nick’s swim bag, check my calendar, make lists.

10:40. Play time with Nick. We have 30 minutes, and this is his time. If there is any mercy in the universe it will smite his dragon collection and turn it into a pile of ashes. Nope. No mercy. Instead I have to watch 3-headed fire dragon, aka secret night dragon, digi-volve into spinosaurus and back over and over again, and ladybug goes on rides on ice dragon’s back, and we have battles with poison darts, ice daggers, sun rays, and tornado winds. Nick is upset by my mountain dragon’s innovative and dramatic diarrhea-rock storm attack; he walks away shaking his head and groaning.

11:15. Run out to Dominos. I’m picking up 36 pizzas for Jesse’s second grade picnic. I have to do this with Nick, which adds unique challenges. I save him from impaling himself on the exposed long piece of re-bar in the parking lot and remember to say thank you to the pizza guys. The pizzas barely fit in the back of my VW Passat wagon, because it’s so full of all of my re-usable insulated bags.

11:45. 100 second graders see me arriving at the park with a cascade of pizzas. I’m a rock star. For the next hour, I help serve out food to kids seated at trough-like picnic tables. All the food has been carefully selected for Jesse’s class (mostly by me) to avoid eggs and nuts, so that her little friends don’t accidentally taint her or another little girl in her class. The other classes are supposed to have their own thing going. 15 minutes in, I catch a teacher’s aide from another class squirting ranch dressing onto plates in Jesse’s class. Come on! Obscenities swarm but I swallow them and bark, “WHOA! Is that ranch? Did you read its label for eggs? GIVE ME THE BOTTLE.”

When it comes to my Jesse’s egg allergy, I don’t have room for diplomacy, good manners, or anyone’s feelings. I have a job to do. I’m bitchy enough that the lady hands the bottle over snappy quick, like a plebe. Sure enough, eggs. Hearty heart-felt apologies ensue. Whatever. There’s a new person on my shit list.

12:45. Drive home to quickly feed Nick lunch before swim lessons. I have exactly 1 hour from park departure to pool-side. We get home and I find something for Nick to eat. I scratch the back of my head and notice it feels like it’s been rubbed with gooping handfuls of bacon fat. How long since my last shower…? Huh. 15 minutes until we have to leave. I rush upstairs and take a 3-minute shower. I remember to brush my hair before dressing.

1:45. I’ve arrived at Nick’s swim lesson on time, barely. Lucky for me, his semi-private lesson friend is a bit late. Yay! I feel downright competent. Then swim teacher Sarah approaches. “So I guess you forgot about Jesse’s lesson yesterday?” Shit shit shit. Embarrassing, but water under the bridge now. I get to spend the next half hour having Nick show me his best swim moves — stationary forward kick, spin-in-place-like-Eeyore backstroke, quiver-in-terror jump into pool, and put-my-face-in-the-water-like-it’s-boiling-oil. After the lesson and cleaning up, there’s time for 15 minutes at the indoor playspace at the gym.

3:00. Leave the gym. Nick accompanies me to Ace Hardware and Pik & Save groceries for sundries and booze. We’re moving fast now, because I have a lot to do and there’s no margin.

3:30. Pick up Jesse. Deal with all that crazy and head home. Walk in the kitchen door and make my own crazy noises. I realize I haven’t had a chance to wash any dishes, not even breakfast. Do the dishes – by hand, because the dishwasher is permanently broken and replacing it is a long story. Make chimmichurri sauce for Saturday party. It takes a surprisingly long time to take 2 cups of cilantro leaves off the stems, but it tastes so much better without the stems. Worth every minute.  Clean up the mess from that. Find snacks for the kids. Yell at them a couple times for fighting.

4:45. Anthony made it home, so I get to take Jesse to her shrink alone. Tiny woot woot. It turns out to be a good session, very positive and constructive. Dr. Abrams reminds me how wonderfully Jesse is doing, how far she’s come, how amazing she is. He’s always so up-beat and positive. I’m not really good with that sort of attitude. It’s amazing that he doesn’t annoy me.

6:00. Leave Dr. Abrams’s office and head to dinner. Anthony’s got Nick. Jesse wants Qdoba. Done. I remembered her iPad, so she eats and plays, hassling me intermittently to complete difficult levels for her in Thomas Was Alone.  Then she wants ice cream. She’s been awesome, so we hit Baskin Robbins and chill out.

7:30. We get home finally. I run upstairs to find my boys. Anthony is sitting on the footstool next to the toilet doing his book-reading duty while Nick does his doodie. It’s a rare double-poop day. Anthony’s in a mood, because he just keeps reading as I stand at the bathroom door and say hello. Nick takes a break from bearing down; his eyebrows rise and he points to me. “Uh, Daddy. Look.” Yeah. Hi guys. Good to see you too. I run straight back outside to mow the lawn. Anthony’s in the throes of spring allergies and I have to get it done, because it’s going to seed.

8:15. Done mowing. The kids are watching Willy Wonka and dad has gotten everyone ready for bed. Get cleaned up myself. Type this post while Nick intermittently asks me to snuggle.

9:00. Done. I am completely cooked. But scrolling up through this list, I’m thinking… Maybe it wasn’t that shitty a day. Just busy and long. It could have been worse. I could have been constipated.

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grumpy about sibling loyalty

Going on 3 or 4 months now, every time I think Nick can’t make me any more bat-shit crazy, he evolves to a whole new level of annoying. Right now he’s clingy, needy, whiny. He’s prone to tantrums. He’s got terrible separation anxiety. He’s incredibly picky about food. He won’t sit still for anything. He wants to caress me with his feet and hands all day long; it’s creepy. He hates sharing my attention. The second Jesse comes out of school, he intercedes before I can even manage a hello hug, running off like a rabbit or grabbing my hand and dragging me around while he screams.

A few days ago as we waited at Jesse’s school pick-up, Nick was better than normal. I hadn’t done or said anything to him that I would regret later. Jesse came out and we had about 3 seconds of peace as I gave her a hug. Next I turned to a fellow mom to say something. Suddenly Nick ran up to me and (oh my gawd) pulled my shirt up, all the way up past my bra. I blurted an obscenity, I remonstrated, I pulled my shirt back down in terror. The usual. Jesse hustled Nick a few paces away to safety as I nattered. I suspect most of the 30 other parents standing around didn’t notice, either because they were dealing with their own kids or because they’re used to Nick and me.

I told Anthony about it during breakfast the next day. I was irritated about something Nick was doing at the table and I started whining about his developing GBD. (I just made that up, generalized behavior disorder. Is that a thing?) Nick sat there fidgeting, listening intently and looking like he felt cornered. I got to the part where he pulled up my shirt, and I described my horror at my bra being exposed. Just then Jesse called out from the living room, in a dismissive tone that said it was no big deal: “It was only an inch of your bra. That’s all I saw.” Anthony burst out laughing while I gesticulated behind Nick’s back to get Anthony to stay serious. I failed. Nick was relieved to be off the guillotine.

A few minutes later Jesse wandered nonchalantly into the kitchen and over to my chair, leaning in on me for a light hug. She finished her thought, looking at me all sweet and innocent-like. “A four year old is an annoying age, an irritating age. You just have to tolerate it.”

Mmmm. I’m not sure I agree with Jesse, but I have to give her proper respect for coming to her brother’s aid on an issue where she can anticipate a lot of angry push-back from me. Siblings should stick together.

My brother Mark tells an apocryphal tale about being lined up with Ted and Eric for spankings when they were little, after Dad discovered one of them had done something really naughty. Dad couldn’t figure out which kid was guilty, so he told my brothers that they’d each get a spank, one after another, until one of them told (I would have been too little to make the line up). Dad had huge, scary spanking hands. Mark remembers it with fresh pride as if it happened yesterday: the brothers never broke. No one tattled, and Dad finally gave up.

It remains an unspoken and (I believe) unbroken code among the four of us. No matter what else goes wrong, even between us, we’re banded together in loyalty, against our parents and the world. We may not have always believed it of each other, but I do think it’s true.

If I knew my dad at all, I know that he would have been impressed and entertained by his loyal boys, but also very grumpy about his total lack of authority. He would have been even more grumpy about spanking them, because it couldn’t have been something he wanted to do. He wasn’t a hitter; he was a grumbler and yeller.

Listening to Jesse as she leaned on me, I thought of Mark’s story and felt the same as Dad must have – a mix of respect and pride, plus a healthy dose of grumpy. All I could do was stare at her and shake my head. She gets outraged at Nick herself. He drives her crazy. So what’s she doing defending him? When did my kids get old enough to gang up on me?

Parenthood fills me with hubris sometimes. I float up on a cloud of ego, buoyant from the lightweight moral advice I blather at my kids. All of that is just empty noise. In the end, they’re apparently learning one of the most important family-value lessons on their own: you have to defend your siblings from your parents, even when you’re defending behavior that really pisses you off. I guess that’s because it’s between you and your brother (or sister), not between him and your mom or dad.

I’m incredibly proud of my kids for starting down this journey of loyalty to each other at such a young age. But I still yelled at Nick and gave him a time out before the morning was done. Thanks to Jesse, I didn’t feel as bad about it as usual. He had her to help him through it.

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grumpy about my advice

Jesse’s second grade class gets these little pamphlets called “book talk,” in which they practice composition by responding to questions about a book they’ve read in class. I don’t know who comes up with this crap. “Fox thought the sky was falling. Would you ever believe the sky is falling? Why or why not?” That just slayed me. Jesse was flummoxed too. She could only answer the first question, thus: “No.” Accompanied by a helpless shoulder shrug untranslatable to paper. The second question stumped her completely.  She became overwhelmed by anxiety, because she was supposed to write FIVE sentences about this absurd subject. Also she couldn’t answer technically because she doesn’t yet have any real concept of what the sky IS, let alone why it can’t “fall” in the thumpy sense of a rock. So Jesse was falling apart, in tears. Anthony and I had to intervene. Anthony gave it a go, dictating the following extended response to the question: “No. Because that is stupid.”

Notably, this didn’t help Jesse’s mood. We ended up having a long talk, full of all kinds of useful and profound advice. Sometimes schoolwork is stupid, but you have to do it anyway. When it’s lame, just write something stupid and don’t worry about it. Mommy and daddy won’t judge. Second graders should think in short sentences, not long sentences, and say obvious things. Then you will be able to write five sentences about anything. Stuff like that. There are a lot of good reasons why Anthony and I never considered home schooling.

Today Jesse pulled a book talk thingy out of her backpack and, among other things, showed me this question:

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My interest was piqued. This is what she wrote:

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Five sentences, reducing Anthony and me down to our parental essences. Anthony gets creepy thoughts out of Jesse. That is amazing. If I were Anthony, I’d be walking around on cloud nine right now, thinking to myself, my daughter just told me I rescue her from the monsters in her head. Awesome.

As for me, I helped Jesse make short sentences. Now I’m walking around thinking to myself, my daughter just told me I advised her to dumb it down. Put me on the list for mother of the year again.